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Police are ignoring crimes as they’re ‘swamped by calls about mental health’, claims damning report

Police are having to ignore crimes to look after vulnerable people as they ‘pick up the pieces’ of a ‘broken mental health system’, a damning report has found.

Officers are being swamped by calls about mental illness, with the country’s biggest force receiving one such call every four minutes, inspectors said.

Forces are bearing the ‘intolerable burden’ of a ‘national crisis’ in mental health care as GPs, social workers and community health workers go home at 5pm and leave officers to deal with their patients.

Figures from forces show 97,796 crimes and 431,060 incidents were flagged as involving mental health concerns in the year to June 2017, but inspectors said this was just the tip of the iceberg [File photo]

Police are using up an average of three hours per mental health incident – for example, ferrying people to hospital or waiting in accident and emergency for them to get help, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found.

The scale of the problem is illustrated by the fact that the Metropolitan Police – the UK’s largest force – sends an officer to respond to a mental health call every 12 minutes.

It cost Scotland Yard around £14,000 just to answer the calls of a single person who rang 999 more than 1,000 times in the space of a year. The force spent £70,000 answering a total of 8,655 calls in a year from five of its worst repeat callers, who all had mental health concerns.

Officers are being swamped by calls about mental illness, with the country's biggest force receiving one such call every four minutes, inspectors said. Forces are bearing the 'intolerable burden' of a 'national crisis' in mental health care, a report claimed [File photo]

Officers are being swamped by calls about mental illness, with the country’s biggest force receiving one such call every four minutes, inspectors said. Forces are bearing the ‘intolerable burden’ of a ‘national crisis’ in mental health care, a report claimed [File photo]

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham warned yesterday that the knock-on effect was that forces were able to attend and investigate fewer crimes. 

She said: ‘There are many … instances where police officers, two at a time, are sitting with patients in A&E awaiting assessment or beds.’

The report found that half of mental health patients are transported to a place of safety by police, not the ambulance service. 

The peak time for calls to forces is between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday, when GP surgeries, social care and community mental health teams close.

Miss Billingham said other services ‘need to stop relying on the 24/7 availability of the police’.

The scale of the problem is illustrated by the fact that the Metropolitan Police – the UK's largest force – sends an officer to respond to a mental health call every 12 minutes [File photo]

The scale of the problem is illustrated by the fact that the Metropolitan Police – the UK’s largest force – sends an officer to respond to a mental health call every 12 minutes [File photo]

Figures from forces show 97,796 crimes and 431,060 incidents were flagged as involving mental health concerns in the year to June 2017, but inspectors said this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Miss Billingham concluded: ‘Too often the police are left picking up the pieces of a broken mental health system. It is placing an intolerable burden on police officers and staff at a time of escalating demand in areas like knife crime, serious sexual offences and domestic abuse.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are investing £2billion in mental health services, including in A&E departments, and community crisis services.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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