Intended for healthcare professionals


Police in England and Wales step back from mental healthcare

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 04 September 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1954

Linked Opinion

We should push for non-police alternatives to mental health crisis response

  1. Catherine Hayhurst, consultant in emergency medicine1,
  2. Tim Sparkes, consultant in emergency medicine2
  1. 1Cambridge University Hospitals, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Great Western Hospitals, Swindon, UK
  3. Correspondence to: C Hayhurst

The new Right Care, Right Person approach must be monitored to ensure patient safety

Police in England and Wales are working to release themselves from all but the highest risk mental healthcare work in an approach called Right Care, Right Person.1 This will enable police to focus on maintaining community law and order. In July 2023, a national partnership agreement for the programme was signed by government agencies including NHS England’s national mental health director, giving NHS blessing to the plans.1

Police responses for mental health currently include performing welfare checks on individuals when professionals or family are concerned, locating patients who have not returned to the mental health ward after authorised leave under section 17 of the Mental Health Act, responding when a person at risk of suicide unexpectedly leaves the emergency department or a ward, and taking people to a place of safety for their own or others’ protection.


Police involvement in these circumstances is lifesaving in some cases but can make the individual concerned feel like a criminal.2 In the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services’ 2018 report, Picking up the Pieces,3 the police are commended for responding to people …

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