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
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