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Police to work with mental health nurses

Mental health nurses will be placed in police stations and courts to help offenders with mental health problems, in a new pilot announced by the government.

The £25m scheme will initially run in 10 areas, to be rolled out England-wide in 2017 if successful. The liaison and diversion teams will help to diagnose prisoners with mental health issues and substance addiction, offering advice to police on how to work with these people.

It is estimated that police spend between 15 and 25% of their time dealing with suspects with mental health issues; the new scheme aims to offer better support and ultimately help to cut reoffending.

Care minister Norman Lamb said: “Too often people with mental health illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system are only diagnosed when they reach prison. We want to help them get the right support and treatment as early as possible. Diverting the individual away from offending and helping to reduce the risk of more victims suffering due to further offences benefits everyone.”

The trials will take place in Avon and Wiltshire, Coventry, Dorset, Leicester, London, Merseyside, South Essex, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, Sussex and Wakefield.

Policing minister Damian Green added: “Officers should be focused on fighting crimes and people with mental health conditions should get the care they need as early as possible. These pilots will not only ensure that happens but in the longer term will help drive down reoffending by individuals who, with the right kind of treatment, can recover fully.”

Mental health professionals have welcomed the investment.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sean Duggan said: “Liaison and diversion services can transform the lives of people with mental health problems who get into trouble with the police and in so doing make the justice system more effective and efficient.

“Well functioning liaison and diversion services can prevent people with mental health problems from being imprisoned and reduce the likelihood of further offending by putting better support plans in place for people with complex needs.

“We are pleased that the Government has given the go-ahead to further development of liaison and diversion services.”

And Dr Peter Carter, chief executive & general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, called it a positive step. He said: “Many of those entering the criminal justice system have mental health problems, substance misuse issues, or learning disabilities. It is important to have nurses available to help with assessing their needs and providing suitable care, so this additional funding is certainly welcome.”

“Nurses bring vital skills and knowledge to these complex and challenging cases and we know that the police greatly value working in partnership with nursing staff. Having more nurses in liaison and diversion services will improve the health care that people in the criminal justice system receive and it will also support the police’s public protection work.” 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


Karen Baker   08/01/2014 at 12:29

This is fantastic news-here on the Isle of Wight our mental health teams have been working with the police for almost a year on a service called 'Operation Serenity'. The teams operate on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings in the community. We have evidence that this has been a highly successful for our service users and would be happy to share that if colleagues would find it helpful.

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