Tension between services as police spend fifth of time on mental health cases

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton from the Devon and Cornwall Police has spoken to Sky News about the overwhelming amount of mental health cases the police have to deal with.

20 per cent of police time is spent dealing with people having a mental health crisis, despite the fact they have no training and are not equipped to deal with these situations.

Health care workers should, in theory, be capable of dealing with all the mental health cases across the country, but low budgets and inadequate funding means that the mental health network is not able to.

However, Netherton points out, the police service is also underfunded, but as an emergency service, end up picking up a lot of the slack.

This has lead to frustration between the services. Netherton said: “Certainly over the last few years that tension has been growing. We are all in austerity. We understand that.

“The problem is that the Government funded the [mental health service] to provide the establishments for these people to go to. The challenge for the health service is that they’ve got to provide the staff to look after the patients and they are simply having to make some very tough choices.

“The view of the police service is we understand that but it’s never right that these patients are coming into police premises and we’re having to look after them.”

ACC Netherton last year tweeted about one case in which a 16 year old girl was held in police custody because of her mental health problems, despite the fact she was known to self-harm and have severe depressive symptoms.

Of course, a police cell is not an appropriate place for someone suffering with metal health. Several political parties, including Lib Dem and Labour, have pledged huge sums of money and reforms to the mental health service should they be voted into power in the general election in may, so we will have to hope that whoever wins will help to boost this area of health care which is so sorely lacking.

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