The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey David Munro has welcomed a report released today which highlights policing is increasingly being used as the first port of call in responding to people with mental health problems.
The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) raises concerns about the level of demand facing officers across the country in dealing with those in mental health crisis.
The PCC said he echoed the HMICFRS view that a longer term solution is needed to relieve the pressure on police resources already stretched to the limit.
The full report titled ‘Policing and Mental Health: Picking Up the Pieces’ can be viewed here
PCC David Munro said: “As the report rightly recognises, police officers up and down the country, including here in Surrey, are going above and beyond the call of duty responding to people suffering from mental health issues – often in extremely difficult circumstances.
“But we should not be asking our already hard pressed police officers to act as healthcare practitioners – it is not their role nor do they have the expertise to do this work.
“I am pleased to see the HMICFRS report today strongly backing what the policing world has been saying for years. Police officers all too often find themselves as the first resort for dealing with someone in mental health crisis rather than the last.
“We should not be seeing a situation where our officers are left sitting with someone in a hospital ward for hours on end. People in mental health crisis need proper medical intervention and support and this role cannot be fulfilled by policing alone.
“This is at a time when we know resources are stretched to the limit and the public would rightly not expect the burden of these issues to fall on the shoulders of the police service.”
In Surrey – the Force contact centre receive dedicated mental health training and have processes in place to identify people with mental health problems when they call police. This includes a risk assessment process and the ability to signpost them to appropriate services.
Surrey Police also has a dedicated mental health lead who assesses and reviews police engagement and response to people with mental health problems.
Each custody suite in the county has a health care professional working 24 hours a day providing medical support and advice while detentions under section 136 of the Mental Health Act in the county have decreased 30% in the past six months.
The PCC added: “A police cell is not the appropriate place for someone suffering mental health crisis and Surrey Police have made great strides in recent years in ensuring custody centres in the county are not used as places of safety.
“There is of course an ongoing role for policing in dealing with mental health issues and in Surrey we are absolutely committed to working with our partners in the health care system to ensure the right systems are in place.
“However, I agree with the HMICFRS report that a longer-term solution to this situation is desperately needed.”