Tuesday, 31 October 2023
The NHS in London will launch a new 24/7 advice service for police officers to seek rapid support from mental health specialists when they attend incidents, as part of an ongoing partnership.
The NHS and the Met Police are working together to enable more Londoners who need urgent mental health help to receive it from a healthcare professional in the best possible setting.
The advice line pilot will see police officers access NHS advice before they decide to detain an individual under section 136, with NHS analysis showing that for 8 in 10 people who are sectioned in London they would benefit from community support rather than a hospital admission.
As part of a phased approach, police officers will continue to attend callouts if there is if a person is subject to or at risk of serious harm. For example, if a person at risk of serious harm leaves A&E without being seen or walks out of a healthcare setting.
The new approach, Right Care, Right Person, is based on a model implemented over three years in Humberside. The local health system and police worked together to develop a protocol for when a member of the public contacts the police for a mental health matter, with call handlers given additional training and resources to ensure the most suitable person either from the police or the NHS attends an incident.
Health chiefs and the Met have said that there will be a phased transition to the new way of working and the priority is to continue ensuring people in the capital get the support they need when they need it most.
The NHS in London has been preparing extensively for this with extra guidance given to local hospitals about what incidents police will no longer attend as well as clear escalation policies if they believe police involvement is needed.
Alongside the Metropolitan Police and local authorities, NHS London will continue to support local health areas with the extra demand that this change will create and explore what additional resources are needed over the coming months as this new approach develops.
Mental health services are already facing record demand with referrals nationally up by two fifths compared to before the pandemic.
Martin Machray, Executive Director of Performance, NHS London said: “To ensure people in the capital experiencing a mental health crisis get the support they need, the NHS is working with the Metropolitan Police to introduce a new approach over the coming months.
“While police will start attending less mental health call outs, they will still attend if a welfare check is needed or if an at-risk person has absconded from hospital and with the NHS in London seeing mental health referrals increase by two fifths since before the pandemic, it is vital that his approach is rolled out gradually.
“To ensure people receive the best support a new 24/7 advice line is launching today so officers attending an incident where someone is in mental health crisis can receive NHS advice on whether a person needs to be sectioned – this means that the public can have their safety secured by the police at the same time as accessing therapeutic support from the NHS.
“If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health you should still come forward for support in the normal way – if it is an emergency call 999 or if it is non-life threatening there are 24/7 advice lines available for people suffering a mental health crisis which you can view online at www.nhs.uk.”
As part of the phased approach to implementation, the Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they will take a slower approach to rolling out the full model, for example they will remain with patients until they can be safely taken into the care of a health professional.
To support the smooth introduction of the changes today, police and health teams will work together closely, with mechanisms in place for concerns to be escalated in real time and regular calls for partners to share learning or concerns.
Chief Operating Officer for South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, Jen Allan, said: “We know how important it is that people experiencing a mental health crisis receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place. Our 24/7 advice line for police officers and the Right Care, Right Person approach builds on this and ensures the most appropriate professional provides support, improving patients’ experience and outcomes.
“Our services already have really strong relationships with local police forces across South West London and we will continue working closely together as these gradual transitions take place. We recognise that there is increasing demand on our mental health services and teams so we are monitoring the new approach as it is phased in and encouraging our partners, patients and staff to feed back to us.”
“For anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, or if you’re concerned about a friend or loved one, please continue to call our local Mental Health Crisis Line for support on 0800 028 8000.”