Police cells are not the place for mentally ill people
One of Britain’s most senior police officer has said that police stations “should stop being used” as a place to detain mentally ill people.
Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis says A&E would be a “better place” for mentally ill patients when mental health units are unable to take them, rather than police cells.
The BBC has reported that dealing with mentally ill people takes up a fifth of police time, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers. During 2011-12 9,000 people were detained in police custody under section 136.
Ms Curtis says that, “I think as long as there is an option to have a police station cell as a back-up then they will always be used and I think until you get to the stage where you actually say no, enough is enough, then police station cells should stop being used per se.
“If there are no spaces at the mental health unit, then my belief is that an accident or emergency unit at a local hospital must be a better place than a police station.”
Care minister, Norman Lamb has said that there needs to be a closer working relationship between the police and mental health services. “It shouldn’t be about police just saying we’re just going to take them, march them into an A&E department and abdicate our responsibility. That’s not the right way.
“It should be police together with mental health, reaching a conclusion about what is in that patient’s best interests.”
He also said: “Some of the care that is received by people in a moment of crisis in mental health is frankly unacceptable. It’s a national scandal.”
BBC Panorama looked into 52 mental health trusts in England and figures suggested that the number of adult acute beds available in mental health units fell by 17% between 2008 and 2013.
Panorama: ‘Locked up for being ill?’ will be broadcast on the BBC (BBC One) at 20.30 BST on Monday 9th September.
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