Police in England will stop attending mental health callouts where there is no risk to life or a crime is being committed.
According to the Government, police are ‘increasingly’ involved when they are ‘not the most appropriate agency’ to respond, inappropriately taking up police time and leading to people with mental health needs ‘experiencing greater distress’ and ‘having poorer experiences’ of the mental health care pathway.
In response, it has published a new agreement between the police, health services and local government, which sets out new principles to ensure mental health callouts ‘are responded to by the right person’.
The approach aims to end ‘the inappropriate involvement of police’ where no crime is being committed or there is no threat to safety.
According to the Guardian, the London Metropolitan Police has set a deadline of 31 August for attending such calls, with its commissioner writing to inform health and social care services of the move – with officers ordered not to attend ‘thousands of calls’ they get every year to deal with mental health incidents.
Minister for mental health Maria Caulfield said: ‘Anyone going through something as awful as a mental health crisis deserves to know they’ll receive the best possible emergency response. It’s vital the right people who are trained and skilled to deal with the situation are on the scene to assist.
‘That’s why this national agreement is so important. It will ensure the most appropriate health care is provided as quickly as possible.’
But the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned that the approach should not be taken as a ‘green light’ for a unilateral discontinuation of police presence in mental health emergencies, as such a withdrawal ‘poses a real danger to patients’.
RCP president Dr Lade Smith said: ‘The needs of people in crisis must be at the forefront of any action taken by all services and requires a fine balance of both policing and mental health services.
‘We expect all policing, across all regions, to continue providing their vital services, as certain mental health emergencies, when people are in acute crisis, will always need a systems-wide approach.’
The Right Care, Right Person approach
The approach is designed to ensure that people of all ages, who have health and/or social care needs, are responded to by the right person, with the right skills, training, and experience to best meet their needs.
At the centre of the Right Care, Right Person approach is a threshold to assist police in making decisions about when it is appropriate for them to respond to incidents, including those which relate to people with mental health needs. The threshold for a police response to a mental health-related incident is:
- to investigate a crime that has occurred or is occurring; or
- to protect people, when there is a real and immediate risk to the life of a person, or of a person being subject to or at risk of serious harm
Source: UK Government