Deal signed by 22 national organisations follows official report on detentions under section 136 of Mental Health Act.
The number of times police cells are used as a place of safety for people having a mental health crisis is intended to be halved under a far-reaching agreement between police, mental health trusts and paramedics.
The â€œcrisis care concordatâ€ signed by 22 national organisations, including the Department of Health, the Home Office and the charity Mind, is aimed at securing dramatic improvements in the treatment of people having a mental heath crisis.
The concordat suggests that health-based places of safety and beds should be available all the time. It says police custody should not be used because mental health services are not available, and police cars and other vehicles should not be used as ambulances to transfer patients. â€œWe want to see the number of occasions police cells are used as a place of safety for people in mental health crisis halved compared with 2011-12,â€ it says.
The agreement follows a report by four official watchdogs last summer â€“ Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Care Quality Commission, Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Health Inspectorate of Wales â€“ that showed the use of police cells as a place of safety was far from exceptional, and detailed how 9,000 people with mental health problems were detained in police custody in 2011-12. Some were as young as 14.
â€œThose detained under section 136 [of the Mental Health Act 1983] have not committed any crime; they are suspected of suffering from a mental disorder. They may be detained for up to 72 hours, without any requirement for review during this period. In contrast a person arrested for a criminal offence may generally only be detained for 24 hours, with their detention regularly reviewed to ensure that it is still appropriate,â€ says the report.
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said the concordat would help cut the numbers of people detained inappropriately in police cells and end the postcode lottery in standards around the country.
â€œA mental health crisis can already be distressing for individuals and all those involved, but when people arenâ€™t getting the right support or care it can have very serious consequences,â€ said Clegg. â€œItâ€™s unacceptable that there are incidents where young people and even children can end up in a police cell because the right mental health service isnâ€™t available to them. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re taking action across the country and across organisations to make sure those with mental health problems are receiving the emergency care they need.â€
The concordat is backed by NHS England, the Association of Chief Police Officers, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
It challenges local areas to make sure that health-based places of safety and beds are available around the clock and that police cells are not used because mental health services are not available. It also calls for a timescale to be put in place so that police responding to mental health crises know how long they have to wait for a response from health and social care workers,that services share â€œneed to knowâ€ information such as history of physical violence, self-harm or drink or drug history and that a helpline for people with mental health problems should be available 24 hours a day.
In January funding of Â£25m was announced for the introduction of liaison and diversion schemes, including 10 trial areas, that put mental health nurses in police stations and courts to help identify mental health problems in offenders as soon as possible.
Each local area is expected to have agreed a mental health crisis declaration by this December.
Use of police cells during mental health crises to be halved