York & North Yorkshire

Scarborough hospital opens North Yorkshire's first 'place of safety'

People detained by police under the mental health act in Scarborough will no longer be held in a cell.

Instead, they will go to a new facility - known as a "place of safety" - that has opened at the town's Cross Lane Hospital.

North Yorkshire is the last English county to open such a unit.

The region's Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said: "It's good news because people shouldn't be in cells, they should be in hospitals."

Police have the power under the Mental Health Act to take people they suspect of being mentally disturbed and who could be a danger to themselves or others to a "place of safety" to be assessed by a doctor.

This detention may only last up to 72 hours.

Capacity concerns

The new facility, which has space for just one person at a time, will cost about £250,000 a year to operate.

A second unit is due to open at Bootham Park Hospital, in York, in February. It will also be able to hold one person at a time, but has space for a second bed to be commissioned.

However, concerns have been raised about the county's ability to deal with the number of people being detained.

Ms Mulligan said about 480 people were detained under Section 136 in 2012 in North Yorkshire, with 78 of those held in Scarborough and 275 in York.

She said current capacity was "pretty limited" and stressed the need to ensure that the staff and resources needed to meet demand were in place.

Simon Cox, chief officer for NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group, which will fund the facilities, said capacity in Scarborough was "far more than the current demand".

However, he said: "There might be times in York when it is slightly under pressure but, overall, I think there's likely to be sufficient capacity across North Yorkshire and York for those people who need to be managed."

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