Mental Health Patients Now Spared Cells

A service has been launched which means mental health patients picked up by police in South Yorkshire will no longer have to be held in the force’s cell blocks. Under the Mental Health Act police have the power to detain anyone who appears to be in need of a mental health assessment, with the right to hold them in what is deemed by law a place of safety.

Until now anyone seized in those circumstances has had to be housed in a cell until medical services have conducted an evaluation because police have had access to no other facilities fitting that description.

Senior officers have recognised that arrangement has been unsuitable and have worked with professionals from the mental health services to provide an alternative, which opens today at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.

It means people detained for an assessment will be seen by doctors more quickly and will be held in circumstances which are potentially less intimidating that the cells normally used to hold criminals.
Cells will still be used where there is a reason to do so, however, if the patient is drunk, violent, under the influence of drugs or has also been arrested for a serious offence in addition to concerns over their state of mind.

Chief Insp Pat Casserly said it was understood police stations could be frightening and the aim was to provide a more dignified environment for patients. “People with mental health conditions are not criminals.

“They are simply ill and in need of appropriate medical attention. This initiative will provide more appropriate accommodation for patients and speed up the process of professional assessment and treatment.

“The main benefit will be to improve conditions for patients but there are also some benefits for the police. It will reduce the time police officers currently spend supervising patients in stations and it leaves our cell space free for the detention of criminal suspects.”