RCPsych responds to the National Partnership Agreement between the Government, police and health and social care services

Statement / comment
26 July 2023

A nationwide shift to the Right Care Right Person (RCRP) approach, has been announced by the Government. This has been set out in a National Partnership Agreement , which will seek to ensure a balance between police and mental health services in responding to people in crisis.

The Agreement provides a framework for assisting police and local mental health services to decide who should be involved in responding to mental health cases at local level across England.

Responding to the publication of the National Partnership Agreement, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Lade Smith CBE, said:

“It’s no secret that the police, much like the mental health workforce, is under an incredible amount of pressure, whilst at the same time being chronically underfunded.

“For this agreement to be a positive step for patients, the police and mental health services must come together in the spirit of collaboration.

“It should not be taken as a green light for a unilateral discontinuation of police presence in mental health emergencies. Such a withdrawal poses a real danger to patients. The needs of people in crisis must be at the forefront of any action taken by all services and requires a fine balance of both policing and mental health services. We expect all policing, across all regions, to continue providing their vital services, as certain mental health emergencies, when people are in acute crisis, will always need a systems-wide approach.

“The fact is that there are certain legal powers only held by the police such as the power to convey a a person in crisis from a public place to a place of safety, and so mental health is always going to be police business and they will always be needed in some form.

“We entirely agree that it's important for patients with mental illness to be seen as quickly as possible by a mental health professional - there is no disputing this. Our concern is around the workforce resourcing, new additional funding that will be needed and the timescales for implementation.

“A roll out of the ‘Right Care Right Person’ approach, under this agreement must include realistic timescales for planning and preparation, in partnership between health services and the police. This will also need to be fully resourced from additional Government funding.

“Currently, the limited capacity of healthcare services means that many people who need an urgent response to a mental health crisis will end up being faced with police officers when what they truly need is a balance - the attention of mental health professionals working with the police to provide urgent access to treatment. We want to see a move from a sanctions-based approach, to supporting individuals through effective treatment.

“None of this is possible without a Government commitment to ongoing additional investment in health services, and careful monitoring of clinical outcomes, including the experience of patients who encounter police or healthcare services during these emergencies. More than a million people are waiting for treatment and many of those people end up contacting emergency or crisis services.

“While the reasoning and ambitions behind the ‘Right Care Right Person’ approach are largely sound, it is important to remember that it has been trialled in just one area of the UK. Even so, this took several years of planning and partnership working and has resulted in considerable additional cost to local health care services. An evaluation of clinical outcomes, or benefits and harms to the local population has yet to be conducted, and valuable learnings and discoveries are still to be made.

“The only path forward is one where all parties involved work closely together, in the interests of those of us who might find ourselves needing emergency mental health care.”

For further information, please contact: