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Response to HMIC report: ‘Policing and mental health: picking up the pieces.'

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Statement from Assistant Chief Constable Jim Nye

A report released today by HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services) clearly shows the overwhelming demand placed on police services by dealing with people who have mental health issues.

The report ‘Policing and mental health: picking up the pieces’, states that people with mental health issues are being let down placing an intolerable burden on police officers and staff resulting in a national crisis which should not be allowed to continue.

Assistant Chief Constable and Mental Health Lead for Devon and Cornwall Police, Jim Nye, said: 

“We recognise that our partners are working very hard to try to resolve this problem and this is something that we’ve raised with them. Our officers do a fantastic job dealing with people in crisis but a significant proportion of our time is now spent dealing with people experiencing serious mental health issues. Many of them feel their only recourse is to call us as other services are also so stretched.

“As a Force we have been vocal about changing the way people with mental health issues are treated. We no longer use cells as a place to hold people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. Recently in partnership with the NHS and with funding from our PCC, a new referral scheme was launched which will help people access the support they need. 

“We also focus on continued training for our officers, staff and call handlers resulting in them being able to identify people who may have mental health issues and ensure we are offering appropriate support.

“We absolutely recognise that all public services are under pressure but people with mental health problems need better support from qualified experts. Our frontline officers and staff are not medically trained clinicians.”

The report praises the “supportive, considerate and compassionate” way that police forces deal with people who are struggling with mental health but goes on to highlight the critical lack of resources in the mental health system. The main issue is the lack of appropriate care for people, which in turn leads to the police being relied on to provide emergency cover.

Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, said: “The £2 billion for mental health services that was announced in the budget is extremely welcome.

“When people with mental illness are unable to receive effective and timely treatment it is very often the police who, as the service of last resort, are there to pick up the pieces. 

“Residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who are mentally unwell are better off in the hands of medical experts and not frontline police officers. 

“That’s why my office is helping to fund the Integrated Mental Health Service, which launched last month. We have also funded a pilot scheme that allows court to sentence treatment for those who are mentally unwell when they commit crimes.

“We’ll continue to work with our partners in the NHS with the aim of getting mentally unwell people the help they need before they reach crisis point and potentially become criminalised as a result.”


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