Commissioner’s view on policing and mental health
Commenting on today’s report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services on Policing and Mental Health, Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said:
“A lot of work has been undertaken by North Yorkshire Police to understand the demand placed on officers by people in mental health distress, and it is frustrating we cannot yet pinpoint it accurately. However, I am certain that the police are providing support to such vulnerable people on a daily, even hourly basis. When you talk to officers, it is very often the first comment they make about how their role has changed over the past few years and it’s why we’re at the forefront of providing specialist training for officers.
“In addition, I help fund a range of mental health services, including specialist nurses in the force control room and street triage in a number of areas. However, it’s even got to the stage now when GPs are advising people to call the police to talk to the nurse, as they can be the most easily accessible contact. This cannot be right.
“What’s more, officers are frequently left with no choice but to wait with people at A&E, or are forced to transport vulnerable people to hospital in police vans rather than ambulances. The government has consistently promised more money for mental health services, but I am afraid we are not seeing any demonstrable improvement on the ground – although work through the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat has helped improve the service provided by Yorkshire Ambulance Service, for which I thank them.
“Going forwards, we also need to ensure that our remaining section 136 suites are protected and that we have adequate provision across the county for people who are detained in crisis under the mental health act. I remain extremely concerned that these are under threat.
“When I first came into post six years ago, North Yorkshire was the only area in the country to have no specialist health-based places of safety. Four were opened – now Northallerton is set to close, Harrogate is under threat and York’s provision is being halved. I cannot square the circle – the government is committing more money, yet services locally are being seriously cut back.
“This issue needs urgent attention and I need real reassurance that plans going forwards are sufficient to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable people. I am open to alternative ideas around service provision, but I have not yet seen the evidence that would justify further closure of health-based places of safety.”