Police to get extra support from NHS

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MENTAL health workers will be going out in police patrol cars to help potential patients.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is working with Hampshire Constabulary in what has been called Operation Serenity.

Yesterday the Department of Health announced the Crisis Care Concordat, which wants police, ambulance and mental health services, to work more closely together.

This is to avoid people with mental health issues having to stay in a prison cell.

Dr Lesley Stevens, consultant psychiatrist and Southern Health’s clinical director of mental health, said: ‘Across the country, and in Hampshire, too many people with mental health problems are being detained in police cells.

‘The solution lies in closer working and sharing of skills and resources between police, mental health and other public services – as we all have a responsibility to help people at their most vulnerable.

‘Operation Serenity is a great example of this joined-up working in action.’

Mental health workers will be based in the police’s control centre in Netley, and will be able to assist police officers over the phone, if they believe they are dealing with a mental health crisis.

They will work every night from 5pm to 2am.

In Fareham and Gosport, mental health workers join police on patrol on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, from 5pm to 2am.

Mental health staff will assess people at the scene and decide whether they need extra mental health support.

Simon Hayes, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, said: ‘Following the success of the Operation Serenity pilot on the Isle of Wight, I am delighted to see this initiative now being trialled in Hampshire, where I am sure it will be equally successful.

‘It highlights the value of working together with partners to provide the best possible service to those with mental health problems.

‘This thereby helps to reduce the substantial demand on police resources.

‘This is a significant step forward and I will be exploring other opportunities to develop this still further.’

Superintendent Paul Bartolomeo is the head of call management and leads the project for the police.

He said: ‘Police are often called to respond to incidents involving people with mental health concerns and our aim is always to minimise any risk and protect everyone involved from harm including that individual, the wider community and the police officers themselves.

‘However, we recognise that in such circumstances, once the initial incident has been resolved, the police service is not best placed to provide an effective level of care.’