This situation is the result of prolonger and covert capacity rationing. The rationing occurs in training, plant, support services and all aspects of mental health.
The police are picking up the pieces for cuts to mental health services because they are the “bank that can’t say no”, according to the independent watchdog.
Dame Anne Owers, head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said that forces would struggle with a law limiting the use of police cells for those suffering a mental health crisis because there was nowhere else to take them. “The criminal justice system becomes the gateway to mental health service because it’s the bank that can’t say no,” she said. “It’s no good just saying the police shouldn’t be dealing with these people; you’ve got to ask the question, ‘Who should?’ ”
Legislation going through parliament will make it illegal for children to be detained in a police cell during a mental health crisis and limit the circumstances in which adults can be held there. It is an issue on which The Times has been campaigning as part of its Time To Mind initiative.
Dame Anne said that apart from training the police to deal properly with people in mental health crisis there need to be many more services to deal with them. She said that half of the people who die in police custody or immediately afterwards are known to have mental health problems.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said that mental health was a significant problem. “We were treating it as a marginal issue when in fact 40 per cent of the people we come across have got a mental health issue,” he said.