Last night, the excellent and realistic 999 What’s Your Emergency covered the police and ambulance service response to mental health in the community. This is something I have been banging on about for years. Everyone involved with the emergency services except the responsible ministers and agency heads knows that the police, ambulance service and A & E are the only realistic ports of call for mental health patients ‘out of hours’.
The constable from Blackpool put it succinctly when he said last night that he was unconvinced that a police cell was the right place for a mental health patient, and he as a policeman was probably not the right person to be dealing with these issues in the first place. It must be frightening and confusing enough to have mental health problems without having to deal with being locked up by the police as well.
One of the issues for me is that the time and outcomes we spend/provide dealing with MH issues are not measured, and therefore not regarded as important by senior officers and politicians. When our current crop of senior police officers were on the frontline, there were plenty of mental health beds. Last night, Channel 4 claimed that over the past few decades, the capacity for inpatient care had been cut by 80%.
You cannot reach your detection target when you are sitting with an MH patient for hours. You get in trouble for not reaching your detection target. Thus, PCâ€™s who donâ€™t want to get in trouble, and remember, under Winsor II they can make you redundant for not â€˜performingâ€™, will never like being involved in issues which do not provide them with a performance outcome they can show their bosses.
This is clearly wrong, and it stems from Theresa May saying over and over that our mission is â€˜to cut crime, nothing moreâ€™.
Most PCC candidates are also obsessed with cutting crime. The culture then becomes one of ignoring any other kind of task. Sad, sad times for a service now run by accountants and politicians.