Some thoughts ahead of the New Year, after sitting recently and wondering where on earth weâ€™ll be with things by Christmas 2017! â€”
Firstly, Commander Christine JONES QPM, the National Police Chiefâ€™s Council lead on mental health will be retiring in early 2017 after a distinguished career. She has been the NPCC lead on mental health for the last four years and was a driving force behind the existence of the Crisis Care Concordat which was published in 2014. A fierce supporter of the operational officers who face and take tough decisions every day, often whilst finding themselves in far-from-ideal contexts, I know that she has challenged partner organisations around the extent to which commissioning and fragmentation in health contributes to the extent to which the police service is called upon. What some perhaps havenâ€™t seen is how challenging she is within the service to improve the leadership, oversight and knowledge of the detail around this area.
I remember in 2013 being asked to assist Kent Police with their early work around mental health and they asked me to speak in their lecture theatre to a group of senior and operational officers as well as partners. At the last moment they told me that Commander JONES was attending to listen and itâ€™s one of those rare occasions Iâ€™ve become very nervous indeed! Those who know me well know I would just keep my mouth shut rather than say stuff I didnâ€™t believe: I think Commander JONES has led us exceptionally well â€“ sheâ€™s been a passionate advocate for vulnerable people and for frontline police officers, often saying the things I know many people were only thinking and Iâ€™ve watched her standing up to senior healthcare professionals and politicians alike, challenging assumptions and saying things they didnâ€™t always enjoy hearing.
Iâ€™m especially grateful for the support sheâ€™s afforded me personally, in terms of arguing for my secondment to the College of Policing and in encouraging and supporting me to keep chipping away at issues when she knew I was taking flak. Iâ€™ll always be grateful for that, because when you feel like youâ€™re one of the few in a room saying certain things, itâ€™s helpful to have such backing from someone who really understands these agenda.
I wish the Boss nothing but the very best for the future â€“ itâ€™s genuinely been a proper privilege.
Therefore secondly, you should be aware that the NPCC lead on mental health transfers in late January to Chief Constable Mark COLLINS, of Dyfed-Powys Police. Mr COLLINS has already met Commander JONES to start the process of handing over and Iâ€™ve already sent him a couple of pages of A4 outlining some headlines that I would recommend he looks at. Top amongst them are the initiatives which fall under the name â€˜liaison and diversionâ€™ and â€˜street triageâ€™ â€“ there is still more to be understood on both of those issues; from better understanding and defining the concepts through to more thorough research and evaluation of things that go beyond the supposed benefits to the health system.
Mr COLLINS takes over the national lead at a point where forces will be starting to deliver training to officers based on the College of Policing packages that weâ€™ve spent two years developing; he takes over as demand on the police connected to mental health is rising quite sharply but at a point where we still know the overall data we have to understanding that demand and the particular problems is not as comprehensive as it needs to be.
I think itâ€™s great that the lead will transfer to Wales â€“ land of my grandfather(!) and where I studied criminology â€“ because there is plenty of work to do there and the devolved political system for health in Wales, but not for policing, provides a slightly different dynamic to things. Wales published a Crisis Care Condordat at the end of 2015 and are just adjusting to introduction of a new Code of Practice for Wales, which took effect in October 2016. Obviously, Mr COLLINSâ€™s responsibilities for NPCC will cover both England and Wales and as heâ€™s worked at senior level in both countries and overseen various developments around mental health in his last force â€“ he seems ideally placed to lead on this and very keen to become involved.
Keep your eyes open next year: weâ€™re going to see various things worth watching! This will include â€“
Finally, some new amidst all of this affecting me!
I am totally chuffed to have been invited by Mr COLLINS to work as his mental health coordinator on his NPCC portfolio for the next couple of years. My secondment at the College of Policing was due up at the end of March anyway and I had started discussions with West Midlands Police about an operational posting for April 2017. Whilst I do intend to end my career in an operational police role I still have at least twelve years left to serve so Iâ€™m delighted to be given a chance to keep chipping away at this agenda around mental health when there is still so much left to do. In fairness, evidence shows that demand on policing connected to mental health is rising â€“ up at least 26% over hte last three years â€“ and Iâ€™m grateful to West Midlands Police for still affording me the opportunity to push this agenda. So from April 2017, I will be seconded to NPCC via Dyfed-Powys Police working directly to Mr COLLINS, albeit 25% funded by the College of Policing so I can continue to support the work they will need to undertake to keep APP and training materials up to date, in light of all of the above.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, that those emergency and health services workers who worked didnâ€™t take too much of a bending and that you all have some chance to enjoy some time with family or friends â€“ Happy New Year!
Winner of the Presidentâ€™s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.