Police increasingly attending mental health calls

HealthNewsPeople seeking mental health care forced into getting help from police “is unacceptable”Joe Mellor

HealthNewsPeople seeking mental health care forced into getting help from police “is unacceptable”Joe Mellor

She continued: "The police should be the last resort, not the first port of call. Miss Billingham said other services 'need to stop relying on the 24/7 availability of the police".

According to the inspectorate's analysis, police in 22 forces took 318,000 calls relating to mental health in two years, which equates to one every two minutes if scaled up to all forces. These crisis intervention teams very often aren't available or are simply suffering themselves from overload, so it's the police that are stuck with the problem and of course it's very demanding, very stressful for the officers.

The Inspector said that police officers are having to intervene in mental health incidents and sometimes having to sit with people in Accident and Emergency waiting rooms for hours until they can be assessed by a health professional.

However, I am certain that the police are providing support to such vulnerable people on a daily, even hourly basis.

Humberside Police was highlighted for having a mental health practitioner from the charity Mind in its control room three times a week.

"They do get some training but they're not mental-health professionals".

The inspectorate flagged up separate statistics showing that, in London, police receive a call about a mental health concern once every four minutes and send an officer to respond to a mental health call every 12 minutes. The force spent £70,000 answering a total of 8,655 calls in a year from five of its worst repeat callers, who all had mental health concerns.

Police funding has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2010, while officer numbers have dropped by more than 20,000 over the same period.

Responding to the report, Mark Collins, lead for mental health and policing at the National Police Chiefs' Council, said he agreed too many people were being directed to the police rather than health services.

The report pointed out that South Yorkshire Police's call centre supervisors carry out regular performance meetings with police officers and staff.

Superintendent Allan Wescott, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "Mental health is a frequent factor in many incidents that the police are called to, whether a person is a victim of crime, a witness, or someone who is calling us as a cry for help".

The report, carried out by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, makes it clear that whilst the police service is doing "a good job in hard circumstances" there are concerns over whether forces should be involved in responding to mental health related issues "at the current level". This is not a problem that the police alone can solve.

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