Debate on 24-hour mental health services

We asked:- Should mental health services be staffed 24
hours a day so that professional help will always be on hand to
reduce the risk of police error?

Here are some of the comments we received:-

“I work as an out-of-hours approved social worker in central
London and I find that 65-70% of the referrals I receive for Mental
Health Act assessments are from the police.
On the whole I feel that the police make good referrals – most of
the s136 referrals end up being admitted to hospital showing that
the police have correctly identified mental illness.  There are
also two police liaison community psychiatric nurse posts in this
area, in recognition of the high proportion of people with mental
illness being arrested.

However, the out-of-hours service finishes at 9 pm and after
that there is only one emergency duty social worker working all
night who has to respond to emergencies from all client groups. 
This means that people sometimes have to remain in police custody
overnight before they can be assessed by mental health

24-hour mental health services would be a positive thing, not
only to reduce the possibility of police error but also to ensure
that police officers know that when they make a referral to mental
health services they will receive a rapid response at any hour of
the day or night.”

Wendy Hellam
Out of hours ASW
South Westminster

“Yes I think that would be great, for the mental health
services to be staffed 24-hours a day so that professional help
will always be on hand to reduce the risk of police



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