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25.08.15

Nearly 4,000 mental illness sufferers still detained in police cells

Nearly 4,000 people are still being detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act in England, despite this representing a drop from the last three years.

According to figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, 3,996 were still kept in police custody under section 136 of the Act in 2014-15. If figures for 2014-15 were to include Wales, this would rise to over 4,500 police cell detentions.

However, this was 34% less than the 6,667 detainees in 2013-14, and a 55% reduction from 2011-12 figures.

The Department of Health owed the “success” to the Crisis Care Concordat, a programme to improve standards in mental health crisis care across the country.

It has announced today (25 August) that almost 10,000 people received emergency attention from mental health nurses working alongside police officers as part of street triage schemes.

The government has spoken out against the practice of keeping mental health patients in police cells when inpatient beds are unavailable.

Minister for community and social care, Alistair Burt MP, said: “Having a mental illness is not a crime. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should be treated with the same urgency and compassion as someone with a broken leg, rather than ending up in a police cell. Too often this has not been the case but every part of the country is working hard to change that.”

Plans to overturn the situation include increasing 24-hour health-based safety places for mental health crises, a 24-hour helpline, and a greater investment to help the one million A&E visitors with ill mental health to receive better care. This will be supported by the Care Quality Commission’s new inspections of local health services to assess the quality of crisis care.

The government has also announced an additional £15m investment next year to provide more places of safety for Mental Health Act detainees. Section 136 of the Act allows the police to detain someone they believe may have a mental disorder and who could cause harm to themselves and others. The section includes police stations as one of the “places of safety” suspected mental illness sufferers should be taken to, adding that the police can move detainees between different places. The total use of section 136s in 2014-15 was just short of 22,000.

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