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PCC Vera Baird praises Northumbria Police’s response to mental health related call-outs

28th November 2018

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC has praised the good work of Northumbria Police officers and partners assisting those needing mental health support following the publication of a national report published yesterday (Tuesday) into how police respond to mental health related call-outs.

The report by HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services) provides an overview of national best practice. Northumbria Police has been highlighted for developing a forward-thinking simulation training package called ‘Respond’, which sets out clear roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in mental health crisis work.

The national report, entitled ‘Policing and Mental Health: Picking up the Pieces’ also acknowledges that the police cannot fix what is described as a ‘broken mental health system’ and calls for a radical re-think and long-term solution to what it refers to as a ‘national crisis’.

The Commissioner has highlighted how dedicated officers and great partnership work in Northumbria is making a positive difference in supporting vulnerable people in difficult circumstances, despite increasing pressures.

Dame Vera said: “Northumbria Police is working hard to keep vulnerable people – who are experiencing a mental health crisis – out of police custody and on the receiving end of support from fully trained professionals. Our street triage initiative and ‘Respond’ training schemes are regularly cited as best practice.

“Northumbria is doing well thanks to the drive and determination of those involved, who are committed to offering an outstanding service for vulnerable people who come into police contact but it’s vital that police forces are funded appropriately to meet the resource and training needs of this ever-growing challenge.”

Insp Steve Baker, force lead for mental health, said: “People will often come into contact with police at their lowest points and it is incredibly important that we treat them fairly and proportionately regardless of the nature of the incident.

“It’s important that when we have concerns about an individual’s mental health we have an appropriate course of action to ensure they get the support that they need. Through street triage we have a mental health nurse right there, alongside our officers and thanks to our ’Respond’ training package we can now ensure that all organisations involved in the crisis pathway have a thorough understanding of each other’s roles following a crisis call-out. We work together – we learn together – and it’s great to see our work acknowledged in this report.”

Responding to today’s report, HM Inspector of Constabulary, Zoë Billingham, said: “All too often, the system is failing people when they most need help. This is not a problem that the police alone can solve. Other services need to stop relying on the 24/7 availability of the police.”

The Street Triage team which operates in collaboration with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) is a service that comprises of a mental health nurse working alongside a dedicated police officer who patrols together. The initiative involves the team of professionals making an immediate assessment to make sure an individual gets the best care possible when concerns about their mental state are reported to police – this is designed to help avoid preventable detentions when using Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and signpost them to the most appropriate service.

Respond is a unique multi-agency simulation training package for professionals involved in mental health crisis care. By increasing collaboration and knowledge, it equips staff to respond quickly and appropriately to improve patient experience.