Police deal with more mental health calls, says chief

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Police are spending more time dealing with people who have mental health issues, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has said.

Sir Peter Fahy said it had become the main issue for officers responding to emergency calls, and the force was struggling to cope.

Incidents officers are called to include dealing with people being actively suicidal or self-harming.

Statistics show these incidents can tie officers up for up to eight hours.

Other incidents police are called to deal with include people acting bizarrely in a public place or to those telephoning the police with paranoid ideas.

Sir Peter said: "We recognise the NHS is under huge strain, but certainly we are very concerned that at a time when we are taking the budget cuts, although crime is going down, that part of our workload which is dealing with dealing with vulnerable people in general, we are seeing steadily increasing."

Paul Reed, from Manchester Users Network, a charity that helps users and ex-users of mental health facilities in Manchester, said patients find their best chance of getting treatment is by getting themselves arrested.

Police statistics

  • In 2012, 2.5% of incidents recorded by police in Greater Manchester involved dealing with mental health issues
  • On average, officers spent 3.5 hours on each, ranging from 40 minutes to eight hours
  • Between May and December, 218 people were detained and taken for mental health assessment

"The police have a duty of care and by going to the police and saying they are ill the police then have to do something, but then they obviously get moved to mental health services."

The Police Commissioner for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, is to to set aside £200,000 of his budget to buy extra support from health professionals.

He said: "We know that the demand is increasing on the police for people who really should be in the health service.

"What the money is designed to do is to make sure we have a proper partnership between police and health providers.

"It means that we can get the appropriate health professionals involved at the earliest stage."

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