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Friday, 12 September 2014

Report urges police to stop using cells for crisis care

Written by The Press Association

Children suffering a mental health crisis should not be placed in police cells for their own safety, leading psychiatrists have said.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said putting youngsters in custody cells should be banned.

And adults experiencing a mental health crisis should only be confined to police cells in "exceptional circumstances", the College said.

It said there is "huge variation" in the quality of crisis care available to patients.

Previous research has highlighted that police stations are "routinely" being used as a place of safety for people who have reached crisis point.

The College said that putting children in police cells should be phased out by 2016 and by the end of the next Parliament this practice should only be allowed in rare circumstances for adults in a crisis.

In the run up to the general election, the College has published a document detailing six "asks" of the next government to help improve mental health services across the country.

"Everyone who is experiencing a mental health crisis, including children and young people, should have safe and speedy access to quality care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the report states.

"The use of police cells as 'places of safety' for children should be eliminated by 2016, and by the end of the next Parliament occur only in exceptional circumstances for adults."

It also states that everyone who needs to be admitted to a mental health ward should have access to a bed in their local area unless they need specialist treatment.

Concerns have been raised recently that many patients are being forced to seek treatment hundreds of miles away from their homes and support network because no beds are available locally.

The College also said referral to treatment targets for mental illness should fall in line with those who have physical health problems. It said no patient should wait longer than 18 weeks to receive treatment for a mental health problem.

It also called for a minimum unit price for alcohol to be introduced to reduce the harm associated with problem drinking, improvements to parenting programmes and better psychiatric services in hospitals.

Royal College of Psychiatrists' president Professor Sir Simon Wessely said: "While we welcome the fact that all three political parties are talking about mental health, and that it has never had a bigger profile, what we now need to see is good words translated into good deeds."

Labour's shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said: "The growing pressure on our mental health services is not sustainable. It is unacceptable that some of our most vulnerable patients are having to wait for months and months or travel hundreds of miles to get the help that they need.

"It is a national scandal that seriously ill children are being detained in police cells because there is nowhere else for them to go.

"Ed Miliband has committed to making mental health a priority for the next government. Labour will guarantee the right to talking therapies in the NHS constitution. We are putting mental health at the heart of our vision for an integrated health and social care system to ensure that it gets the focus and attention it so desperately needs."

Norman Lamb, Care and Support Minister, said: "A child in a mental health crisis must not be taken to a police cell. Our Crisis Care Concordat will end the use of police cells as a place of safety for under-18s, reinforcing the duty on the NHS to make sure that people under 18 are treated in an environment suitable for their age, according to their needs.

"We are making progress - we've seen a reduction in the use of police cells across the country. But there is still work to do and we expect every local area to sign a crisis care declaration by the end of the year so that anyone in distress gets urgent, compassionate care no matter where they live."

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