Police ‘face intolerable burden amid national crisis in mental health care’

Police taking calls on mental health issues every two minutes, watchdog warns

A Government spokesperson said: "Police officers do an excellent job protecting those facing mental health problems, in often hard and distressing circumstances, and it is pleasing to see this report finds police leadership in this area to be strong".

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue today called for a "radical rethink" of how to respond to the national mental health crisis and the role the police should play.

The police receive thousands of calls a year from GP surgeries and social care agencies who "shunt" mental health cases on to them at the end of their working day, inspectors say.

A report released today clearly shows the overwhelming demand placed on police services by dealing with people who have mental health issues.

Police involvement could include responding to emergency contacts from concerned relatives or friends, making welfare checks at the request of social services or Global Positioning System, supporting victims of crime who have mental health problems, attending incidents where someone is suicidal or searching for missing people.

Officers have also said that some mental-health services advise people with problems to call police after hours because they have nurses who can offer help and treatment.

The report calls for a "radical rethink" and a longer-term solution to what has become a "national crisis".

Police taking calls on mental health issues every two minutes, watchdog warns
"Police Bridging Gap When NHS Staff Clock Off"

The top five individual report callers to the Metropolitan Police all have mental health problems and called the force a combined total of 8,655 times previous year, costing it £70,000 just to handle the calls.

"They do get some training but they're not mental-health professionals".

It comes after West Yorkshire Police chiefs warned that they were facing increasing calls on their time despite dwindling resources.

Ms Billingham said other services "need to stop relying on the 24/7 availability of the police".

A survey of the public published alongside the inspectorate's findings revealed the majority (70%) said the health service should deal with mental health calls, 10% think it should be the council and just 2% believe it is the police's responsibility.

We share the report's call for people with mental health problems to get appropriate help as early as possible to prevent them becoming acutely unwell - for example self-harming, suicidal or experiencing psychosis. Miss Billingham concluded: 'Too often the police are left picking up the pieces of a broken mental health system.

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