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01 Nov 2023

SANE on Right Care Right Person for mental health patients in London

The Metropolitan Police will reduce the number of mental health calls officers attend in London in an initiative with the NHS to ensure people receive treatment from the most suitable professionals.

Marjorie Wallace, founder and chief executive of mental health charity SANE, said: “SANE fears the impact the significant reduction in police callouts will have on people in mental distress, their families, friends and the public, who are going to be left without anyone to turn to when they face mental health crisis.

“Many of our callers tell us how they have had to rely on the police to respond, and in many cases take them to a hospital or place of safety, to prevent a crisis from escalating to the point at which they become at risk.

Trusts struggling to recruit

“We question how the estimated million hours spent by the police on mental health callouts are going to be replaced by mental health staff when the most acute NHS manpower shortages are in mental health services, with mental health trusts struggling to recruit and retain nurses and other staff.”

“We believe that this unrealistic initiative will lead to thousands of people suffering while waiting for the sparse care that NHS services are currently able to provide, and that it will divert existing NHS staff, making an already overburdened system even more depleted.


“While we accept that it will free up police time and resources, we ask what is going to happen to those who do not qualify for a police callout when no mental health workers are available, leaving them without the help they need.

“The new Right Care Right Person approach involves the police in triaging whether a person presents a danger to themselves or others before responding to a callout.

“Assessing such risks is notoriously difficult. We know of many cases where the failures in risk assessment have been a major factor in subsequent tragedies.”

Training and resources

Right Care, Right Person, is based on a model implemented over three years in Humberside. The local health system and police worked together to develop a protocol for when a member of the public contacts the police for a mental health matter, with call handlers given additional training and resources to ensure the most suitable person either from the police or the NHS attends an incident.

The Met is working with key health partners including the NHS and social care teams across London to ensure that they have planned for these changes.

The introduction of the new policy will mean officers continue to attend calls where there is an immediate risk to life – such as a person who may be at risk of taking their life, or threatening others harm – but calls will be triaged by 999 and 101 call handlers so a caller’s needs are better assessed to ensure the right service responds.

Phased transition

The NHS said health chiefs and the Met have confirmed there will be a phased transition to the new way of working and the priority is to continue ensuring people in the capital get the support they need when they need it most.

The NHS in London has been preparing extensively for this with extra guidance given to local hospitals about what incidents police will no longer attend as well as clear escalation policies if they believe police involvement is needed. 

Alongside the Metropolitan Police and local authorities, NHS London will continue to support local health areas with the extra demand that this change will create and explore what additional resources are needed over the coming months as this new approach develops.

Referrals increase

Martin Machray, Executive Director of Performance, NHS London: “To ensure people in the capital experiencing a mental health crisis get the support they need, the NHS is working with the Metropolitan Police to introduce a new approach over the coming months.

“While police will start attending less mental health callouts, they will still attend if a welfare check is needed or if an at-risk person has absconded from hospital and with the NHS in London seeing mental health referrals increase by two fifths since before the pandemic, it is vital that his approach is rolled out gradually.”

Featured Photo by King’s Church International on Unsplash 

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