Instances of the police dealing with mental health issues is on the rise, and it’s an incredibly worrying trend with a dangerous underlying cause.
Information from a damning report has labelled the state of mental healthcare in the UK as a “national crisis”. The lack of funding and resources has led to the police “picking up the pieces” of a broken system.
The government’s austerity measures have been blamed, with the already overstretched police force now having to step in and deal with mental health issues more and more.
Police dealing with mental health patients more and more
The police dealing with mental health patients more and more is a worrying issue. The police are already overstretched, and having the additional burden of mental health patients instead of doing the job they need to be doing doesn’t help.
It’s understood that more than half of mental health patents are now being picked up by the police instead of healthcare services now. Officer are then having to stay with vulnerable patients until the NHS can deal with them.
It’s said to be worse in the evenings when many NHS services are closed. The report suggested that some healthcare professionals are even telling mental health patients to call the police to avoid lengthy NHS waiting times. There have also been cases where patients are being told to wait until later in the day before seeing help, by which time mental health services may be closed.
Failure to meet demand leads to police dealing with mental health patients
It comes down to a simple failure to meet the increasing demand that has led to more instances of the police dealing with mental health patients.
Merseyside Police reported that 25% of their officers’ time is now spent on mental health issues. Lancashire Police reported that some 20,000 hours out of 70,000 hours a year are being spent on mental health issues.
This is a massive problem. The already overstretched police plugging a healthcare hole is not an efficient use of resources at all.
Massive reductions in mental health services resources has created the gap. The author of the report, Zoë Billingham, said:
“We cannot expect the police to pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system. Overstretched and all too often overwhelmed police officers can’t always respond appropriately, and people in mental health crisis don’t always get the help they need.”
We cannot allow police resources to be used inefficiently and we cannot allow vulnerable mental health patients to be put at risk either.