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Some police have stopped answering mental health calls, with no alternative support in place, experts warn

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 25 September 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p2208
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. London

A new policy designed to allow police in England and Wales to focus on law and order risks unintended consequences, as Matthew Limb reports

Police forces in parts of the UK have stopped answering urgent calls related to mental health even before alternative support is available to people, under a policy designed to free up officers’ time, MPs were told this week.

The move means many vulnerable people are being left without help in areas where the necessary services and arrangements with other agencies are not yet in place, warned Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind. Giving evidence to the House of Commons health select committee on Tuesday 19 September, Hughes said, “We know of local Mind and local trust partners who are already experiencing people having no response because the police are saying they no longer respond to mental health calls.”

The policy, Right Care, Right Person, which was developed by Humberside Police over nearly three years, is being rolled out in England and Wales from the end of October at varying speeds.1 Backed by the government and police representative bodies, it aims to ensure that patients in a mental health crisis are treated by the most appropriate agency, rather than have police act as default responder, when they may not be best suited to help.

But the Royal College of Psychiatrists is among the organisations to have raised concerns over the levels of preparation and resourcing for the policy and the absence of evaluation of clinical outcomes or benefits and harms to the population.2 In …

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