Mental health carers in Ealing have raised their concerns over plans by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to end most responses to mental health incidents unless there is “an immediate threat to life”.
In a statement from the Met Police to The Guardian, the police force said: “Where there is an immediate threat to life, officers will continue to respond. In the interests of patients and the public, we urgently need to redress the imbalance of responsibility, where police officers are left delivering health responsibilities. Health services must take primacy for caring for the mentally ill, allowing officers to focus on their core responsibilities to prevent and detect crime, and keep communities safe and support victims.”
Following the report, Ealing Carers Group set up a petition to highlight the issue and their concerns.
The carers for loved ones said: “Ealing’s mental health carers need 100% confidence in the 999 emergency services when we are confronted with a crisis and thankfully the Metropolitan Police have provided vital support during these emergencies.
“We are alarmed by Sir Mark Rowley’s decision to end most of this support by the 31st August because we cannot see how it will be possible to implement Right Care Right Person, 24 hour emergency cover, across the whole of London by that deadline. As a group of carers we have launched a petition and we will continue to campaign until we are reassured that Right Care Right Person will be implemented without putting our loved ones at risk.”
Speaking to the BBC, a Met Police spokesperson revealed that officers spend an average of 10 hours with a patient when they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act. They said: “In London alone, between 500-600 times a month, officers are waiting for this length of time to hand over to patients, and it cannot continue. Police are compassionate and highly skilled but they are not trained to deliver mental health care.”
The planned move by the Met Police, follows a 2020 introduction by Humberside Police of Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) where mental health professionals deal with calls.
The programme is set to be rolled out nationwide, but the Met Police commissioner says it needs to happen quicker.
In his letter to health and social care services, seen by The Guardian, he writes: “I have asked my team that the Met introduce RCRP this summer and withdraw from health-related calls by no later than August 31.
“It is important to stress the urgency of implementing RCRP in London. Every day that we permit the status quo to remain, we are collectively failing patients and are not setting up officers to succeed.”
He continued: “We are failing Londoners twice. We are failing them first by sending police officers, not medical professionals, to those in mental health crisis, and expecting them to do their best in circumstances where they are not the right people to be dealing with the patient.
“We are failing Londoners a second time by taking large amounts of officer time away from preventing and solving crime, as well as dealing properly with victims, in order to fill gaps for others.
“The extent to which we are collectively failing Londoners and inappropriately placing demand on policing is very stark.”
Ealing Carers Group meets regularly and is supported by West London NHS Trust and its mental health integrated network teams.