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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