bernardhogan-howeThe Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has come a long way in improving the way it responds to people with mental ill health, but more needs to be done its commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has said.

This message comes one year on from the publication of a report by an Independent Commission – led by Lord Victor Adebowale – which made 28 recommendations after examining the MPS’ response to mental health and the interface between the MPS, mental health services and partners. 

With 1 in 4 people likely to face a mental health issue and up to 40% of all MPS work relating to people with mental health vulnerability in the capital, mental health is recognised by the MPS as a core part of policing. 

Liaison and diversion

As part of the MPS’ commitment to implement the Independent Commission’s recommendations, liaison and diversion services – which places mental health teams in custody suites so that people who enter custody with suspected mental health issues can be assessed and referred for treatment at the earliest opportunity – are now becoming a standard part of the MPS.  

Liaison and diversion, commissioned by NHS England (London), is now provided in the majority of MPS custody suites and full coverage will be available by the end of 2014. An enhanced operating model for liaison and diversion, which seeks to ensure that a wider range of vulnerabilities are met, is being piloted in 13 custody suites in northeast London.

“We are changing the way we think and deal with people who are vulnerable,” said Sir Bernard (pictured). “My officers recognise better now than ever that people who have mental health issues need the right access, help and support to services. 

“Our officers are not experts but we have helped them recognise mental health issues and how to get the right help. 

“We have come a long way but there is still more to do and we will continue to work with our partners to improve how we respond to those with mental health needs. This report gives us options to prevent police officers coming to conflict with people who only need health care.”

Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing and chief executive of social care organisation Turning Point said: “It’s good to see that mental health has been recognised by the police as core business. It’s also a core concern of the public. 

“I would like to thank the families that have supported the report and also thank the work of the commissioners of the independent commission.

“This is not an end to the process – it’s the beginning of building a police force that can respond to the needs of all people.”

Dr Alison Frater, head of Public Health and Health in the Justice System at NHS England in London, added: “We are committed to continue our work with the Metropolitan Police Service in order to reduce health inequalities and improve the physical and mental health of those that come into contact with front line police officers. It is through this approach that we will help reduce re-offending and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, whilst improving health outcomes. We are delighted that one year on from Lord Adebowale’s Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing we have been able to meet our recommendations and that liaison and diversion services will be available at every Metropolitan police station by the end of 2014."

Implementing recommendations

Other work the MPS has undertaken in the past year to implement the Independent Commission’s recommendations includes:

Reviewing mental health training and introducing the Vulnerability Assessment Framework – a simple tool for officers to recognise vulnerability. This has been delivered to all frontline territorial policing officers with roll-out expected to take place across the MPS by the end of the year

Establishing the Vulnerability Independent Advisory Group – a high-level expert group of stakeholders who provide the MPS with on-going specific advice regarding matters such as training, policy and procedure

Contributing to the Department of Health Crisis Care Concordat – a formal agreement between organisations, which sets out the standards of care people should expect if they suffer a mental health crisis

Working in partnership with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the LAS to develop a partnership training DVD for all officers and staff. This will be available from September.

Other ways in which the MPS is working nationally and with partners across the health spectrum to progress the recommendations include continuing an internal Diamond Group to provide strategic leadership over the work that is being developed and is on-going within the MPS in relation to mental health. Also, the Pan London Mental Health Partnership Board, is being further developed to include a working group, to provide a consistent and collaborative approach to partnership working between three London police forces, London Ambulance Service and the nine Mental Health Trusts across London.