The Metropolitan Police has launched a new initiative aimed at reducing the number of mental health callouts they will respond to from today.
The Right Care, Right Person approach will see officers only attend calls when a person is subject to or at serious risk of harm.
The scheme was set out in the National Partnership Agreement and will ensure there is a better balance between police and mental health services in responding to people in crisis.
Responding to the launch of the new system, Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“The new Right Care, Right Person approach has the potential to significantly change the way people with serious mental illness can access care.
“Although the timeframe has been short for NHS leaders to prepare for this new system, and it’s at a time of overwhelming demand and chronic staff shortages, it’s positive to see the Metropolitan Police is working with mental health providers from across London to ensure the scheme is as successful as possible.
“It is inevitable that there will be issues which emerge for mental health staff, the police and some of the most vulnerable in society which the agreement does not adequately address.
“In these cases, we call on the Metropolitan Police to work with health services to ensure any challenges that arise can be addressed swiftly and for processes to be adjusted as soon as possible.
“This approach will take time to embed and will require a monitoring mechanism that both NHS Trusts and the police can report problems to and get advice from.
“These changes should be implemented with caution, as police officers will always need to respond to mental health callouts when there is a risk of harm. Any delay to police involvement in a crisis puts people’s welfare at risk and increases the likelihood that officers will need to invest more resources due to delays in attending calls.
“We entirely agree 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.
“Ultimately, the success of this scheme should be measured by its impact on people with mental illness and not just by how much time it saves the police.
“The Government must immediately provide mental health services with the additional resources and funding needed to provide continuity of care and prevent more people from experiencing a crisis. This should be followed by regular and timely reviews to determine whether the programme is working.”