Mental health staff introduced in police stations in Kirklees

People with mental health issues are often taken to police cells and are not given the help and support they need. We spoke to Healthwatch Kirklees who have worked to change this.
person in handcuffs

A CQC report found that people who appeared to have a mental disorder and are in need of immediate care were being taken to police cells, rather than a hospital. Healthwatch Kirklees investigated the issue in their area and, as a result, mental health nursing staff were brought into the local police control room as part of a six month pilot. We spoke to them to find out more.

What made you investigate this issue?

Concerns had been raised by West Yorkshire Police in Kirklees about the number of individuals detained using Section 136 of the Mental Health Act (1983), who were being held in police custody, rather than in specially designed, staffed and equipped Section 136 Suites. We wanted to better understand this from the perspective of those who have been detained and their carers in Kirklees.

What did patients tell you?

People told us that they were made to feel like criminals when they have serious mental health problems and need help and support in a setting where they can feel safe and comfortable. One patient said that when she is well she worries about being taken into custody by the police and that she felt like she was being punished for being unwell. They also told us about the different ways they were being treated by staff, with some showing a lot of care while others had very little understanding and awareness of mental health issues.

What did you do as a result?

Our work, in part, has led to the introduction of mental health nursing staff in the local police control room, under a pilot scheme for six months. Furthermore it contributed to a training package being developed and delivered to approximately 250 front line police officers from response and Neighbourhood Police Teams between October and December 2014.

What difference has it made?

From January 2015 – April 2015 approximately 105 fewer people were detained by the police compared to the same time last year. Feedback from officers shows that the presence of the Police Liaison Mental Health Nurses has been positive to the patients, the police and will be beneficial in the long term for other mental health services. The police are now trying to get continued funding for this and have published an impact report to demonstrate the success of the pilot scheme.

One of the most effective things we have been able to do since the work was completed is revisit the groups who gave us feedback and tell them this story about what’s been put in place and how seriously their comments have been taken. People get so tired of telling their story when it feels like nothing has changed, and it feels fantastic to see people impressed by what has been put in place.