A new tranche of government investment in the mental health estate could bring an end to the controversial practice of confining people in mental health crises to police cells as “places of safety”.
The £130 million fund, announced today by health minister Rosie Winterton, will ensure that each mental health trust has access to an “appropriate place of safety” for assessment of people brought in by the police under the Mental Health Act 1983.
The widespread practice of taking people in mental distress to police cells for assessment has been criticised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Cross Government Group on the Management of Violence and Aggression.
The money will also be used to update inpatient wards and Psychiatric Intensive Care Units.
Rosie Winterton said much of the current mental health estate dated from before 1948 and was therefore older than the rest of the NHS estate.
“We have been working to improve mental health services, but we know that the mental health estate needs refurbishment. This money gives a further boost to our plans to remove all unsuitable mental health accommodation.”
She said the money “will help ensure patients are treated in a safe and therapeutic environment… and are treated with dignity and respect at all times”.
Paul Corry, director of campaigns at mental health charity Rethink, welcomed the news and said: “Police are too often left to pick up the pieces when people experience a mental health crisis. This welcome new announcement will bring the day closer when police stations are no longer used to house people in acute medical need.”