Improving mental health crisis support in Gloucestershire

Posted 16th October 2020 by Richard Bradley – Chief Executive, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and a member of the Gloucestershire Funders consortium of funders

Early intervention and closer links between the police and health services help to improve experiences for people in mental health crisis in Gloucestershire.

In the UK and other countries, there has been a move towards the ‘de-institutionalisation’ of people with mental health challenges since the 1980s. This has meant that treatment and support increasingly takes place within the community. This, however, is reliant on the availability of mental health community and acute services. In times of a mental health crisis it is the police who are often the first point of professional contact and who function as ‘gatekeepers’ to services more suited to people’s needs. Someone experiencing a severe mental health episode can present with extreme and unpredictable behaviour. This can pose a danger to themselves and members of the public, and the Police are often the only professionals able to respond because the person is in crisis ‘out of hours’.

Both the Independent Commission into Mental Health Policing and the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat suggest that the inappropriate use of police officers, vehicles and custody facilities are not in the best interest of a person with mental ill health, a disability or vulnerability when they most urgently need mental healthcare and support services.

According to the College of Policing, an estimated 83% of all ‘command and control’ calls that come into call centre staff are for non-crime related incidents. These include: Missing persons (Misper) reports and calls relating to Missing persons, Concern for Welfare, calls relating to a person who is vulnerable or experiencing mental health issues and calls from persons in distress. In Gloucestershire we estimate that only 20% of calls received are related to crime.

The creation of the High Intensity Network has enabled the management of highest risk individuals who place the greatest demand on services in the county. The activity of the

Missing & Mental Health (M&MHT) team has helped close gaps identified by HMICFRS. Serious case reviews and the introduction of a mental health car in June 2017 has improved multi-agency working in the county’s response to people in crisis. These changes have improved the Constabulary’s approach to mental health in general.

“Direct contact with mental health service users is beneficial for individual officers and the wider knock-on effects for positive police and community relations are invaluable.”

The OPCC produced a report in 2020 into The Impact of Non-Crime Demand on Policing in Gloucestershire. A number of considerations were identified in the report, these include:

· Developing closer links between police and health services to improve experiences for people in mental health crisis by ensuring they are diverted to appropriate services

· Reviewing IT systems to prevent duplication

· Improving police understanding of mental health for student officers or probationers

· Developing the dataset for the scope and prevalence of mental health markers to inform training and planning

· Emphasising prevention and early intervention rather than reaction

These are now being considered to develop current practice, as well as initiating new practice, in Gloucestershire’s journey to decrease the demand on police time and to help direct the appropriate use of Police and NHS resources.

“Interventions, fostering closer working partnerships between the police and mental health professionals, can help the effective targeting of police and NHS resources, and improve patient outcomes.”

By Richard Bradley, Chief Executive, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner