Greater powers are needed to quickly assess people with mental health problems who have been detained in police cells, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The college published a revised set of standards this week on finding places of safety for people found by police in public places and deemed in need of immediate care and control under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
The standards followed last month’s report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission,which found that two-thirds of those removed under section 136 in England 2005-6 were taken to police cells as opposed to hospitals, contrary to best practice.
This week’s report called for the compulsory recording of each detention, improved psychiatric facilities, and faster assessments by mental health professionals.
The RCP has produced a standardised monitoring form which will be piloted by police forces in Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Redbridge, London before being introduced across the rest of England.
The information collected would be used to compare practice across the country and drive up standards, the college said.
Local commissioners were asked to ensure 24-hour provision of psychiatric facilities for use as places of safety rather than police cells, which the report said criminalised individuals. It also said ambulances should be used rather than police vehicles to remove people to reduce the “distress and embarrassment” caused.
Joint work with police
Multi-agency groups including social care professionals and user organisations should be established “to develop jointly agreed policies and procedures”.
The report also urged the Care Quality Commission, which comes into force in April 2009, to produce annual reports on the standards of care in relation to section 136.
The standards were produced by a group led by the RCP including the British Association of Social Workers, Association of Chief Police Officers and Mental Health Act Commission.They have been endorsed by the National Institute for Mental Health in England.
Kamlesh Patel, chair of the MHAC, vowed it would ensure “services know about and implement the new standards”.
• Standards from www.rcpsych.ac.uk