SANE responds to new National Partnership Agreement on policing and mental health
The NHS, police and government have committed to a new approach to ensure those requiring urgent mental health support receive timely care from the most appropriate agency.
Commenting on the announcement, Marjorie Wallace, founder and chief executive of mental health charity SANE, said: “While we understand the frustration of the police in substituting for mental health services, we fear for the many individuals and families for whom they are the only ones to respond when they feel they are reaching crisis point.
“We answer many distressed callers who have tried to contact their crisis lines, only to find there is no reply, that they are answered by untrained co-ordinators who tell them, as they report, to ‘take a walk’ or ‘have a shower’, belittling the anguish they feel. A recent report showed that one in five crisis calls are not answered and some of those who do get through believe they are not helped.
“As a charity, we cannot cope with the demand and need while there so few crisis beds available and the psychiatric services are in many places in breakdown. These people are also at risk, and without the police may have nowhere to turn.”
The government says that patients experiencing a mental health crisis will be treated by the most appropriate agency, helping free up police time and ensuring care is provided by someone with the most relevant skills and experience, as a new national agreement is signed between health and policing partners.
Under the partnership agreement, local health partners and police forces in England will work together on joint plans to implement the new approach, working towards ending the inappropriate involvement of police where no crime is being committed or there is no threat to safety.
The plans and timelines for implementation will reflect the needs of local communities, as well as the capacity of local police and mental health services, and any additional resources required.