Joint initiative brings use of police cells as places of safety for mental health patients down to lowest ever level

The Cavendish Square Group, the collaboration of the ten London NHS trusts responsible for mental health services can today (25 October) reveal that the use of London police cells as places of safety under Section 136 (s136*) has fallen to its lowest level since records began.


In 2013 the Mental Health Partnership Board (MHPB) was formed to develop best practice and partnership between the Met Police and Mental Health Services in London. One of only two stated priorities was to reduce the number of times people in crisis are taken into police custody when in need of a safe space – the figures now average less than one person a month.


“Our ambition was to work with the police to stop the practice of taking people in mental distress to police cells and instead ensure they are taken to an appropriate environment to assess their needs and give them access to the right support quickly.” says Maria Kane, a member of the Cavendish Square Group and the lead liaison between the NHS in the capital and the Metropolitan Police.


“The latest data, covering January – September 2016, shows how hard the Trusts have been working over the last three years; we have been working flat out to ensure that patients can be admitted even when Trusts are under real pressure for space.


“Going from 87 instances in London in 2013 when we began our work, to averaging less than one police cell being used per month now, is a testament to the success of this partnership. In the last two months recorded, no one has been in a police cell.


“The Metropolitan Police Service contributes between 20 – 25% of the national s136 demand, so to achieve such low levels of police cell usage as places of safety here should set a national precedent for what can be achieved when services work together to make this a priority. To set this in context, there were over 6,000 s136s recorded in London between January 2015 and June 2016.”


Claire Murdoch, Chair of the Cavendish Square Group, has commented: “These figures are great news – the Cavendish Square Group and the NHS, working with the Met Police, has made a real impact. There are significant pressures across the crisis pathway with much still to do however, this does not alter this important achievement.”


“The challenge now is to maintain the momentum and ultimately stop it happening altogether. We need to ensure that investment in health-based places of safety continues, so when officers are supporting people in mental health crisis, there are appropriate places of safety available.”


In 2013 the Met Police began to capture data on how many times mental health patients were detained under s136 and taken to its cells. That year, London police cells were used 87 times as places of safety. By November 2015, the figure dropped to 16 and has since fallen to less than once a month.



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