Cuts to services mean people in state of crisis are being put in police cells
CUTS to mental health services mean patients are being held in police cells and “treated as criminals,” a mental health charity revealed yesterday.
Mind called for additional funding for the NHS to provide a safe, therapeutic environment for those experiencing mental health problems.
The charity said it wanted “to see an end to the use of cells for people in crisis.”
It was responding to Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor’s annual State of Policing report, which found that mental healthcare provision was in “such a state of severity” that police are often being seen as a “service of first resort.”
Mind said an increasing number of people who are suffering mental health crisis but have not committed any crime are spending the night in a police cell.
Mr Winsor said: “The severe problems in mental health provision in this country are not only failing those who need treatment, they also create an unacceptable strain on the police and imperil public safety.”
The report found that a shortage of ambulances in some areas meant that police officers were acting as “first responders.”
And it concluded that until mental health is given the same priority as physical health in the allocation of resources, the police will continue to play a role in helping people with mental health issues.
Mind spokeswoman Vicki Nash said that while helping the mentally ill is a core function of the police, “they should not be plugging the gaps created by failings in health services.
“People with mental health problems should get appropriate help and support as early as possible to prevent them becoming so unwell that they end up in crisis, which is when police are more likely to become involved.”
Ms Nash added: “Too often, people in crisis end up in police cells because there is nowhere else to take them.
“When you’re in a mental health crisis, you may become frustrated, frightened and extremely distressed, and being held in a police cell and effectively treated like a criminal only makes things worse.
“Mind wants to see an end to the use of cells for people in crisis.”