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73% drop in mental health patients in police cells

Posted in: Medical Negligence 

A 73 percent drop in mental health patients being locked up in police cells since January 2015 has been announced by Devon and Cornwall Police. It has been revealed that police forces in the area have made the decision to take people detained with mental health issues to Accident and Emergency wards instead of locking them up in cells. This is causing strain between the two services as Accident and Emergency departments are already running at capacity.  Head of A&E department at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Dr Anne Hicks, has said that they have been experiencing a sharp rise in cases being referred in weekends and evenings. She described the situation as causing “tension” between the police and the health service.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer had written in confidence to NHS chiefs in January of 2015, saying that police officers would now be taking mentally ill people to hospital and other places of safety, instead of putting them into police cells. In his correspondence, he revealed that procedure would be such that as officers were called out to cases involving mentally ill people, ambulances would be called. Should the patient be a child, they would be taken to an A&E department.

“should be delivered to a secure mental health hospital”

Mental health expert for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Hicks, confirmed that “agitated mental health patients” were being brought to the hospital’s A&E which was creating: “real tension between us and the police”.

In the letter, Chief Constable Sawyer acknowledged that under normal circumstances, those people who could cause harm to themselves or others in society, should be delivered to a secure part of a mental hospital instead of being locked in a police cell.

Dr Hicks stated that admissions after normal working hours of mentally ill patients had risen by about 20 percent. She stated: “We don’t feel we can deliver that safe nurturing space those patients need”.

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