policeFive more police forces are to join the pilot scheme that sees mental health nurses patrol with police officers to improve responses to mental health emergencies.

The street triage scheme sees mental health nurses accompany officers to incidents where police believe people need immediate mental health support. The aim is to ensure that people get the medical attention they need as quickly as possible.

The five forces to join the scheme are: Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police, West Yorkshire Police, West Midlands Police and Thames Valley Police.

As part of the scheme, mental health nurses:
• Support police officers while they are out on patrol
• Assist officers when they are responding to emergency calls
• Give advice to staff in police control rooms.

Initial reports from established street triage schemes in Leicestershire and Cleveland show that it can help to keep people out of custodial settings and reduce the demands on police time.

North Yorkshire, Sussex, Derbyshire and Devon and Cornwall police forces have been selected as trial sites for this scheme and have already started setting up their pilots.

'Picking up the pieces'
Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “Making sure people with mental health problems get the right assessment, care and treatment they need as quickly as possible is really important, especially in emergency situations.

“We know that some police forces are already doing an extremely good job of handling circumstances involving mentally ill people but we want this to be the reality everywhere. By providing police forces with the support of health professionals we can give officers the skills they need to treat vulnerable people appropriately in times of crisis.

“We have already seen encouraging results from the other pilot sites and I am excited that these five additional police forces are trialling this important scheme.”

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, welcomed the extension of the ‘street triage’ pilot schemes: “Too often police have been ‘picking up the pieces’ where psychiatric services have failed mentally ill people. They often have to take people to a police cell as a place of safety because there are no beds or staff available at hospital or healthcare facility.

“This is unfair on both the police and mentally ill people, because the majority are doing nothing more than feeling suicidal or in danger of harming themselves. They need compassion and care instead of being strip-searched and locked in a police cell and treated as criminals.

“We hope that mental health nurses will reduce the shocking numbers of people being detained in this way, but question how many nurses can be made available and how, with the closure of hospital beds, there can be sufficient places of safety.”