The Police Federation of England and Wales has backed plans to have more mental health nurses at police stations, but warned that vulnerable people should in the first instance be taken to a health-based place of safety.
As part of the £25m “Liaison and Diversion” government scheme, mental health nurses will be stationed at nearly 50 police stations at ten forces across England and Wales by next month. This includes the Met, Northumbria, Essex and West Yorkshire Police.
Officers and custody suite staff will be able to refer vulnerable people who they suspect have mental health needs for assessment and referral for appropriate treatment. The programme is then expected to be rolled out across the country by 2017.
Kevin Huish, lead on mental health issues for the PFEW, said the Federation supported the move by government to increase specialist provision and said he hoped it will give officers more support.
“Police officers are not specially trained experts in mental health and vulnerable people who may have mental health issues should be properly assessed and dealt with by appropriate healthcare professionals,” he said.
Mr Huish stressed the need to assess the scheme carefully. “Vulnerable people should, in the first instance, be transferred to a health-based place of safety rather than brought into police custody to be assessed by a nurse,” he said.
The PFEW has long been highlighting the need for better facilities and services to support people with mental health issues who wrongly end up in police custody because of a lack of provision.
The Home Office is also working with police chiefs across England and Wales, the Metropolitan Police and the College of Policing to put together a training plan for officers to quickly identify people with mental health needs.
Policing Minister Damian Green acknowledged that police were often first to arrive on the scene when someone is suffering a mental health crisis and said that they need their health partners to be “ready to step in” and provide medical support when needed.
Date posted: March 13, 2014