As many will know, I have been talking about this issue as a key challenge for Policing for three years; PCCs elected before me were raising concerns in 2012/3.
As per my tweet below, the fact that HMICFRS found policing deals with a spike in mental health incidents at around 4pm is very telling. Once again we see evidence of policing being used as a 24/7 service of first resort, in the absence of more appropriate services, rather than the emergency service of last resort.
It is a credit to policing that HMICFRS found strong leadership and governance on mental health across most police forces but, more importantly, the British public neither wants nor expects these issues to fall on UK Policing at all. Residents would much rather the police focused on tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in their local neighbourhoods. Policing wants this too but first, following the Budget, health services must be required to provide more crisis prevention care.
There will always be a role for policing to play in dealing with mental health – supporting vulnerable victims of crime, for example – and in Kent I have commissioned work to better understand the views of victims with mental health issues to ensure they receive the best support possible. This is what police officers should be doing, not spending entire shifts plugging the gaps left by others.
Whilst it is good that the report highlights many good examples of best practice, it is disappointing that there is nothing on how Police and Crime Commissioners are supporting Policing to reduce demand.
As the PCC Lead nationally for mental health, I have been honoured to work on the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, commissioned by the Prime Minister and led by Professor Sir Simon Wessley; in particular being asked to chair the Working Group looking at the Police’s role. I have also been working with NPCC Lead Mark Collins and Policing Minister Nick Hurd on a plan to support Forces better.
Three things have converged all at the same time – this HMIC report, an extra £2bn a year promised by the Department for Health for crisis care in the Budget and the Independent review recommendations being published in a couple of weeks. As I said two weeks ago, we have the opportunity for change within our grasp. All agencies must work together to support one another so that this opportunity is not squandered.