AMHP leads sound alarm over Met Police withdrawal from mental health-related incidents

Network warns policy risks being misinterpreted leading to police not attending incidents where they are needed, after Met commissioner announces withdrawal from health calls by end of August

Police car with flashing blue lights
Photo: Tiko/Fotolia

Approved mental health professional (AMHP) leads have sounded the alarm over the Metropolitan Police’s decision to withdraw from attending mental health-related incidents in London by the end of August.

The AMHP Leads Network joined organisations including the Royal College of Psychiatrists and mental health charity Mind in warning that the policy risks leaving people in crisis without the support they need.

Met commissioner Mark Rowley announced last week that the force would “withdraw from health related calls” by 31 August as part of the implementation of the ‘right care, right person’ (RCRP) model being rolled out by the police nationally.

The policy, pioneered by Humberside Constabulary, involves officers only attending mental health or welfare incidents where there was a real and immediate risk to life or of a person being subject to serious injury or inhumane treatment.

The government-backed scheme is designed to redirect constabularies’ resources into responding to crimes, by reducing demands from mental health issues which do not require a police response and to which officers are often ill-equipped to respond.

Professional body the College of Policing has said that RCRP had led to a large reduction in the deployment of police resources to mental health or welfare incidents from January 2019 to October 2022.

Met police response to mental health incidents

Rowley said the need to introduce RCRP in London was “pressing”, with the force having received a record number of 999 calls on 28-29 April (9,292), but with only 30% being classed as crimes, in a letter to health and social care partners announcing the policy.

He also said that officers spent, on average, 14.2 hours in A&E and 8.5 hours in health-based place of safety, waiting for people to be assessed after they had been detained under sections 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA).

Police powers under the MHA

  • Section 136 enables the police to remove a person – generally from a public place – to a place of safety, for a mental health assessment, if they appear to have a mental disorder and are in “immediate need of care or control” and detention appears necessary to protect them or others.
  • Section 135 empowers a magistrate to issue a warrant, on the application of an AMHP, enabling a police officer to remove a person with a mental disorder to a place of safety for assessment. The AMHP’s application must show that there is reasonable cause to suspect that the person has been, or is being, ill-treated, neglected or kept “otherwise than under proper control”, or is unable to care for themselves, in the premises in question.
  • Under both sections, the power to detain lasts for 24 hours, with the possibility of a 12-hour detention, if necessary to complete the assessment.
  • Detentions under both sections rose by 8% from 2020-21 to 2021-22, according to Home Office statistics.

Rowley said the Met would update health and social care partners on its implementation of RCRP through a delivery group it will set up, where it would also expect them to set out how they will respond by 31 August.

“I appreciate this may be challenging but, for the reasons I have set out above, the status quo is untenable,” the commissioner added.

Mental health leaders’ concerns

The AMHP Leads Network said it was supportive of the aims of RCRP and appreciated the delays police forces faced in getting a response from NHS services to mental health crises, having previously set out the delays AMHPs also faced in this regard.

However, the network said it was “concerned at the speed at which the Met is unilaterally intending to act” and that the experience from the areas that had rolled out RCRP was that there was a “risk of misinterpretation of the policy” due to “poor knowledge by call agents of the nuances of the law, agreements and duties”.

It said this could result in officers not attending incidents that met the threshold for a police response, for example, in relation to sections 135 and 136.

Similar concerns were raised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, whose president, Dr Adrian James, said the Met’s decision presented “a number of issues and concerns” that could not be resolved by the end of August.

“For example, the police are the only service to hold certain legal powers to convey a disturbed person from public places to a place of safety and so they are likely to always be needed when people are in acute crisis,” he added.

“It is simply unhelpful and impractical to make decisions like these before we have worked out what will happen in some very concerning situations, both for patients with mental illness, but also for the public and police officers alike.”

Mind chief executive Sarah Hughes also stressed that mental health was “core police business”, given their role in section 136, adding: “Any changes to supporting people in a mental health crisis need to be thought through carefully and collectively so that no one is left without support.

“New plans need to be rolled out with enough time to make sure strong partnerships are built at a local level so that people with mental health problems don’t pay the price for this kind of change.”

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2 Responses to AMHP leads sound alarm over Met Police withdrawal from mental health-related incidents

  1. Anon1 June 2, 2023 at 4:34 pm #

    Concerned at the speed the Met decided to draw a line under what has become one of the most abusive practices that exists in the NHS? Seriously??? You’ve all had over a decade of policies, arrangements, guidance, reports , concordats and PFDs relating to how police involvement escalates risk. Plus all the case law possible.

    What he’s talking about is non statutory attendance which is exactly what so called ‘ welfare checks’ are as is the staying with non violent persons taken to A&E voluntarily as is the NHS demanding police stay with those detained under s136 when they have done their statutory duty, taken to the HBPoS and the NHS decides not to do theirs.
    So, the statutory work can be done. Ave 17 days delay for Met attendance in this London Borough following s135 warrant being issued . And EVERY London Borough has a policy of always asking for the Met for a MHAA including when NO risks at all being assessed for. So,people die.

    As a woman in the Met area who has been subjected to literally hundreds of extremely aggressive 3rd party called for welfare checks as a standard threat tool, I applaud this decision. Its not as if MH services are there to provide follow up to the life and limb risk they claim exists after the Met smash in front doors that are then left like that for months, is it?
    Not like they offer support to that person in crisis or ever risk assess what that level of trauma does. Not as if they don’t know either. Doesn’t matter if you are under their care or not the Met are sent for almost everything.

    All those professionals wringing your hands right now , happy to be complicit in such abusive practices for over a decade should really consider who you’re more concerned with- your own positions or that of vulnerable individuals, carers, families and communities who bore the brunt of the NHS deciding not to cost for 24 crisis and emergency care as the law requires.

    Maybe now the public will see that MH services do not provide 24 hr care and crisis teams very often deem people like me too high risk to work with whilst AMHPs decide not high risk enough for a MHAA.

    Yes, dozens more of us will die preventable deaths in London but we are anyway. MH services and the Met will be at loggerheads about whose responsibility is what, but you are anyway. Silo mentalities will be entrenched, but they are anyway.

    And partner agency staff will for a while up the exaggererated reports, use the terminology they think will meet the legal threshold until as individuals they get charged with wasting police time, Trusts will be charged for each wasted call out just like the fire Brigade do right now.
    All of which will happen.

    Lest anyone reading this forgets: THIS IS THE MET . Currently under special measures for the extreme violence, racism and misogyny and sexual assaults that are par for the course and an ingrained culture. Where 80% of officers are white males. And these are the men you send out en masse instead of doing the jobs commissioned for and paid for.

    Scribed by advocate on my behalf

    • Janet June 3, 2023 at 10:58 am #

      All true. Police attendance is a default expectation by AMHPs irrespective of the presumed ‘risk’. They’ve overplayed this and now face the prospect of actually doing the work they foist onto the police. How ironic that as the self claimed champions of human rights and dignity AMHP Leads now bemoan that the Metropolitan Police, the most human rights abusing force in the land, the force that itself admits to its deep seated racist, sexist, homophobic toxicity, won’t hold their hands anymore. If Leads Network really cared about how it’s colleagues respond to distressed individuals and was committed to improving experiences, responses and outcomes, it should listen to what Anon1 so eloquently tells them. But I fear in the usual way it won’t. Apparently those of us who aren’t AMHPs do not understand the “complexity” and aren’t expert enough to be taken seriously. I wrote to the AMHP Leads Network once, didn’t get an acknowledgement let alone a response. No doubt busy with upholding the law and championing the “patient” to do so.