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11.06.14

Mental health treatment in police stations ‘improving’

Efforts to improve support for people with mental health problems in the criminal justice system have been made, but this will need to be sustained for at least another five years to put the vision into practice nationwide, an independent commission has concluded.

The commission, chaired by Lord Bradley, has released a report, supported by Centre for Mental Health, which has reviewed the progress made since his original report in 2009.

The Bradley Report five years on found that the commitment of successive governments to the development of liaison and diversion services in police stations and courts has enabled solid progress to be made in putting these vital services in place across the country. But successful implementation of liaison and diversion will depend on local services offering effective and engaging support to people of all ages who are diverted.

According to the study, there has been some progress in improving access to hospital care for prisoners requiring specialist treatment. But the proposed 14-day maximum waiting time has not been implemented and reform continues to be vital.

It also calls for greater consistency in the provision of mental health support in prisons, for action to speed up transfers from prison to hospital and for training in mental health and learning disability awareness to be provided to frontline staff in all criminal justice services.

Lord Bradley said: “In reviewing the progress that has been made since I published my first report, I have been impressed by the dedication, creativity and perseverance of the people who are striving to make change both nationally and locally.

“However, if we are to make further progress and fulfil the potential of liaison and diversion, we need to see continued commitment from government for at least the next five years.”

It has been suggested that NHS England should replicate its efforts in achieving standardisation in liaison and diversion services by developing an operating model for prison mental health and learning disability care.

This should include accommodating multiple and complex need, a recovery orientated approach, primary mental healthcare, engagement with service users and co-production of services and the needs of special populations.

Responding to the report, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “This report highlights the need for continued investment and support for liaison and diversion services.  Many of those entering the criminal justice system have mental health problems, substance misuse issues or learning disabilities. It is vital that there is help available with assessing their needs and providing suitable care.

He did note, though, that there needs to be extra training in mental health and learning disability awareness provided for all frontline staff in all criminal justice services.

Lord Bradley added that the vision he set out five years ago was always going to take at least a decade to realise. Therefore, it is a great credit to those who have supported the vision that we are still making progress despite the pressure on public sector budgets and the many competing calls on scarce resources, he added.

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