childarrestedNo child experiencing a mental health crisis should ever be taken to a police cell, Care Services Minister Norman Lamb has said.

Speaking at a national summit on the progress of the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat on November 27, Lamb said that the practice of taking under 18s to a police cell as a Place of Safety should be a ‘never event’ – a serious and preventable incident that impacts on patient safety.

Nationally, progress is being made as the number of cases has dropped by 24% so far this year. Some regions have been particularly successful, with Greater Manchester reporting a 98% reduction within the past financial year, and the West Midlands a 90% reduction. Meanwhile, London ended the use of police cells for children in April 2013.

However, many areas are not reporting enough improvement. The summit brought together local and national representatives from across the NHS, police, councils and the voluntary sector to accelerate progress.

Local crisis care declarations, where services including police and health trusts pledge to work together to provide high quality crisis care have already been made in: Gloucestershire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Wiltshire, Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, North Yorkshire & York, Cheshire & Wirral, Oxfordshire and London.

“It is not acceptable for a youngster needing mental health care to be taken to a police station and I want to stamp this out for good,” Lamb said. “I’m determined to improve care for anyone in crisis, which I why I’ve asked every local area to sign our national agreement by the end of this year. Some areas are already leading the way but others have work to do and this week I’ve written to them with a personal appeal for action.”

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns and media at YoungMinds, added: “This practice as Norman Lamb says has got to stop, for young people held in police cells this just heaps more trauma on the already extremely frightening experience of a mental health crisis. Being locked in a police cell will make young people feel they have done something terribly wrong on top of suffering extreme distress. It’s completely inappropriate that this practice continues anywhere, and it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the police who should not be responsible for holding mentally ill young people. We hope this never event becomes a reality as soon as it possibly can.”