MEN­TAL ILL­NESS - IT’S NOT A CRIME

A LACK OF RE­SOURCES MEANS THOSE IN CRI­SIS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE TAKEN AWAY BY PO­LICE CARS RATHER THAN AM­BU­LANCES

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS IN NUMBERS - By ALICE CACHIA

MORE peo­ple sec­tioned un­der the Men­tal Health Act were taken to safe places in po­lice cars than am­bu­lances last year.

Home Of­fice data re­veals that in 2016/17, some 26,328 peo­ple in Eng­land and Wales were de­tained by po­lice of­fi­cers un­der Sec­tion 136 of the Men­tal Health Act 1983 - which means they were sec­tioned while in pub­lic. Of those, 9,142 were taken to safety in an am­bu­lance - but 10,846 were taken to safety in a po­lice car. The gov­ern­ment says a per­son who has been sec­tioned, and has com­mit­ted no of­fence, should not be taken to safety in a po­lice ve­hi­cle. How­ever, only 51 of those taken to safety in a po­lice car were ar­rested for a sub­stan­tive of­fence. On 3,436 oc­ca­sions where a po­lice ve­hi­cle was used, it was be­cause an am­bu­lance would not have been avail­able within half an hour of the call be­ing made.

That means po­lice had asked for an am­bu­lance - but were told it would not ar­rive in time.

In 2,516 cases, an am­bu­lance was never re­quested. In 171 more it was di­verted to a higher-pri­or­ity call, while in 77 the am­bu­lance crew re­fused to take the per­son to a place of safety.

A “place of safety” might be the per­son’s home, the home of some­one they know, a hos­pi­tal, or a po­lice sta­tion.

Some 1,029 peo­ple were taken to a po­lice sta­tion as a place of safety in 2016/17, in­clud­ing the 51 were were ar­rested.

The Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion ad­vises that po­lice sta­tions “should be only be used in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances”.

A fur­ther 1,944 were taken to A&E as a place of safety, while the ma­jor­ity (20,435) were trans­ported to an­other health fa­cil­ity.

A Home Of­fice spokesper­son said: “The gov­ern­ment is clear that a per­son ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health cri­sis and who has com­mit­ted no of­fence should not nor­mally be held in a po­lice sta­tion nor ex­pect to be trans­ported to a place of safety by po­lice ve­hi­cle.

“Since 2013 we’ve seen around an 85 per cent reduction in the use of po­lice cells for this pur­pose. “In in­di­vid­ual cases, de­ci­sions may need to be made to use a po­lice ve­hi­cle based on the risk posed by the per­son to them­selves or oth­ers, or be­cause an am­bu­lance is not avail­able within a rea­son­able pe­riod. “The re­cent po­lice pow­ers sta­tis­tics pro­vided a level of de­tail un­avail­able to us be­fore, mean­ing we can ad­dress issues re­gard­ing how men­tal health pa­tients are trans­ported.”

On 77 oc­ca­sions the am­bu­lance crew re­fused to con­vey the pa­tient

Men ac­counted for more than half of all peo­ple de­tained un­der Sec­tion 136 of the Men­tal Health Act

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