Advertisement

Police in London will not attend most 999 mental health calls from today

Operators can only send officers to an incident where there is a risk to life or serious harm (PA Archive)
Operators can only send officers to an incident where there is a risk to life or serious harm (PA Archive)

Police will no longer attend most mental health 999 calls from Wednesday freeing up at least 17,000 hours a month to fight crime in London, a senior Scotland Yard chief said.

Under the new programme – known as Right Care, Right Person – operators can only send officers to an incident where there is a risk to life or serious harm.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist told the Standard it will stop the force “failing Londoners twice” with the NHS, other providers and adult services now responding to the majority.

Six hundred people are detained under the Mental Health Act every month in the capital.

On average, two officers spend 14 hours sitting in A&E with each of them – a total of 16,800 hours diverted from crime-fighting. If extra police, shift changes and transport are required it can be even more.

AC Twist said: “It’s about understanding that while police officers are compassionate and highly-skilled, they are not trained to deliver mental health care.

“At the moment we spend a huge amount of time dealing with health-related issues which means we are failing Londoners twice.

“All of that officer time, we can’t be supporting victims, investigating crime or bringing offenders to justice.”

Dr Roman Raczka, of the British Psychological Society, said it was “simply dangerous” to withdraw police support at a time when mental health services are already stretched beyond capacity and under resourced. Others warn it could lead to more suicides.

But AC Twist added: “There are people falling through the cracks now. The police should not be the agency of last resort when healthcare fails.

“In the same way, we wouldn’t ask medical professionals to investigate a burglary.”

He said there will be “no grey area” about calls police will no longer accept, such as welfare checks if an appointment is missed.

AC Twist also vowed to back police if a death or serious injury leads to an investigation by a coroner, the Independent Office for Police Conduct or the Crown Prosecution Service.

He said: “What we will be saying to officers is this is a Met-wide policy. If you follow the policy and the decision making, then you will of course be supported.”