jail 180x120Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb has announced that every English region has now signed a pledge to improve care for people in mental health crisis and work towards ending the use of police cells under the Mental Health Act.

While the number of people ending up in police cells fell by 24% in the past year and initial data shows that this level of reduction is set to continue, the Minister wants to see more rapid progress made everywhere.

As part of the new pledge, every area will develop and publish an action plan detailing how they will seek to end the use of police cells for people in crisis and make sure they always get the best possible care in the right setting and at any time of day or night.

Announcing the full support of the police cell pledge, Lamb said: “I want to congratulate every area for committing to improve crisis care. The next steps are crucial – I want to see action plans developed across the country so that a youngster in crisis will never end up in a police cell and anyone with mental illness gets the right care in the right place.

“Whether it’s better links between mental health nurses and police or more mental health support in A&E, I look forward to seeing how local services work together to make positive changes for good.”

NHS 111 mental health crises pilots
The announcement comes as NHS England launches pilots in 6 areas to empower NHS 111 staff to deal with calls about mental health crises more effectively and as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg calls on all NHS trusts to commit to an ambition for zero suicides.

The NHS 111 pilots, taking place in Nottingham City, Devon & Cornwall, Birmingham and Solihull, South Essex, North Essex, and Great Yarmouth & Waveney will explore ways of improving mental health training for call handlers, and sharing information with specialist mental health teams, such as street triage services.

Last year, Lamb launched the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat – a commitment from NHS organisations, police, local authorities and other local agencies to work together so that anyone in crisis gets the urgent, compassionate care they deserve. He called for 100% sign up by the end of 2014 and this was also met, with every area signing their commitment by December 22.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, added: “People in mental health crisis need safe, speedy access to the right services and we know that where excellent crisis care exists, it saves lives. Too often, however, people fall through the cracks between different services and don’t get the help they need. Local health services, local authorities, the criminal justice system and voluntary organisations must deliver a joined-up service and learn from each other to truly provide the best possible care.

“We are proud to play a part in driving the concordat forward at a local level. Despite the challenges facing our public services at the moment, it is clear that the will is there to provide a better emergency response for people in mental health crisis. All areas have taken that important first step in committing to improving services and we now look forward to seeing local services outline exactly how they will make sure people in crisis get the help and support they need, when they need it.”