FEWER people suffering mental health problems are being kept in police cells, new figures have shown.
In 2012/13 there were 600 people with mental health problems kept in Hampshire police cells.
That dropped to 400 in 2013/14 and the force is aiming to keep the figure under 100 this year.
In October last year six people were kept in custody, four in November and eight in December.
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes has welcomed the reduction – and pointed to a scheme where mental health workers attend scenes with police.
He said: ‘I’m delighted that early indications show a significant fall in the number of people suffering mental health issues being taken into police custody.
‘In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, considerable effort has been made to ensure that partners from NHS trusts work closely with Hampshire Constabulary to find more suitable alternatives than custody to vulnerable people with mental health problems.
‘Operation Serenity on the Isle of Wight is a good example of this.
‘The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat has been instrumental in improving outcomes for all concerned, and removing some of the strain on policing.
The agreement says police custody should not be used just because health services are unavailable.
The force is aiming to have no people suffering mental health problems kept in police custody from April this year.
Speaking at the launch of the Operation Serenity scheme, Superintendent Paul Bartolomeo said: ‘Police are often called to respond to incidents involving people with mental health concerns.
‘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.’