Lancashire MP slams mental health trusts for 'pulling bobbies away from the beat'
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has blasted NHS mental health trusts for their reliance on the police.
Mrs Cooper has raised the matter with the Secretary of State for Health, claiming that local NHS Trusts like Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and Greater Manchester Mental Health have told her to refer mental health crises to the local police rather than intervene themselves.
Mrs Cooper said: "“It cannot be right that the already stretched police force are being made to do the job of the NHS! We shouldn’t be pulling bobbies away from the beat and asking them do welfare checks on patients suffering a mental health crisis.
“My office recently received a call from a resident that said they were suicidal. When we contacted the person’s mental health team within Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust, we were told to call the olice instead!
"Crises like this need to be dealt with by the trained healthcare teams responsible for the patient rather than expecting the police to intervene."
She added: “I am told in the past three years, Lancashire Constabulary have spent on average 30.7 hours per day deploying to ‘Concern for Welfare’ calls from other agencies like Mental health providers. The Police force should not be expected to do NHS work when they should be catching crooks.
“In 2021, Lancashire police received over 234 requests for assistance with patients on mental health wards, forcing them to spend hours in hospitals rather than out in the community. I understand that health services are stretched themselves, but this is not an excuse to place the responsibility of mental health care crises onto the police.
“We need a proper solution where NHS Mental Health Services actually react to the crisis, not depend on the police to do their job for them.
"We know that there are some specialist units where the NHS and Police have a dedicated team to respond together. There is one in the Manchester health area - yet it wasn’t deployed in this case - my staff were told to ring 999 - that’s not good enough!"
What do the police and health trusts have to say?
Lancashire Constabulary declined to comment on the matter.
A spokesperson for Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said: “We work closely with police forces to provide appropriate care to those experiencing a mental health crisis.
“This includes a mental health access line, which provides specialist mental health advice to both the police and paramedics, when they attend incidents. This is regularly used by the police and we have received positive feedback from them.
“We meet regularly with the police and other partners to discuss how we can continue to improve and we have a dedicated mental health police officer and a clinical police liaison lead, who work together closely to improve care.
“We have a street triage service for Blackpool, South Cumbria and Pennine, in partnership with the police, which sees mental health practitioners attend scenes with police where there is a need for mental health support. This service is planned to launch later this year in Central and West Lancashire.”
Gill Green, Director of Nursing and Governance for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which treats patients from Lancashire, said: “We enjoy a positive working relationship with Greater Manchester Police, as much of our work does overlap. We have supported officers with specialist training for when they attend situations where someone may be in a mental health crisis, and we work closely on investigations and issues which have a mental health element.
“We have also opened Section 136 suites across Greater Manchester in the communities we serve which are Bolton, Manchester, Salford, Trafford and Wigan for individuals who are in a mental health crisis and have not committed a crime, but the police have been called by the public. They provide a therapeutic environment for those who need it, and they have saved many police hours and kept their cells free for more appropriate use.
“In no way do we expect GMP to take on the role of the NHS and we work very hard to keep their involvement to an absolute minimum. However there are situations where their support is vital.
“We are aware of Ms Cooper’s concerns and I can confirm I spoke with her in person before Christmas to offer assurance on these matters.”