Mental health team to assess Surrey police custody site detainees

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Mental health workers are to assess people being held at four police custody sites in Surrey.

Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said the £300,000 scheme would cover sites in Guildford, Staines, Salfords and Woking.

The team will assess all detainees and aim to identify people who need treatment and support, the NHS said.

Team leader Matt Lamport said: "It's important to remember that not everyone in custody is a criminal."

Mr Lamport said people could be held for interview by police but also if they were detained under the Mental Health Act.

Police can detain people for 72 hours if no crime had been committed but they suspect the person is mentally unwell, he said.

'Police untrained'

"Studies have shown that those detained in police custody suites have higher levels of mental health problems than the general population," Mr Lamport said.

"Until now we've been reliant on the police, who are of course not trained as mental health workers, to spot where there is a need and call one of our services for an assessment."

But he added that even a trained professional could not identify a mental illness by sight alone and it was safe to assume some people would be released or moved to prison without being identified.

Funding for the scheme has come from NHS England.

The service will be covered by three mental health workers who will provide assessments during office hours.

It is hoped the service, known as the Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion Service, will later include evenings and weekends, Mr Lamport said.

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