News story

Use of police cells for those in mental health crisis halved

Crisis care programme reduces use of police cells as a 'place of safety' by more than 50% for people experiencing a mental health crisis.


The Crisis Care Concordat, a programme to improve standards in mental health crisis care across the country, has also led to almost 10,000 people receiving emergency attention from mental health nurses working alongside police officers. These are known as street triage schemes.

Since it was launched in February 2014, the Concordat has resulted in:

  • a 55% reduction in England in the use of police cells as a place of safety for people detained under the Mental Health Act since 2011/12 and a 34% reduction since 2013/14
  • more than 9,350 people helped by street triage schemes in just 12 months in the 9 areas where pilots have been running - a further 17 areas now have street triage schemes following this success
  • 10 ambulance trusts signing up to 30 minute targets for paramedics to respond to mental health crises where the police have been the first to the scene - previously these were not routinely treated as emergencies

The plans, agreed by local councils, health and police services, make sure that:

  • health-based places of safety are available 24/7 in case someone experiences a mental health crisis
  • police custody should not be used because mental health services are not available
  • a 24 hour helpline should be available for people with mental health problems and the crisis resolution team should be able to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • alongside the Concordat, NHS England is investing £30 million this year to help the one million people who attend A&E every year with mental ill health receive better care.
  • liaison psychiatry services ensure that mental health care is given alongside physical treatment - for every £1 invested on liaison psychiatry services the NHS could save up to £3

Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt, said:

Having a mental illness is not a crime. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should be treated with the same urgency and compassion as someone with a broken leg, rather than ending up in a police cell.

Too often this has not been the case but every part of the country is working hard to change that. I’m proud of these results and I’m determined to build on this further so that everyone in crisis gets the care they need in the right place at the right time.

Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, said:

We are really pleased to see such a big reduction in the use of police cells. No one in crisis should have to wait in a cell because of a lack of suitable health services. That some forces have used street triage and other initiatives to dramatically improve the support they provide to people in crisis shows what can be done. We need now to see this kind of progress all over the country.

The Crisis Care Concordat is a large-scale, important piece of work and Mind is proud to have been involved in getting it up and running. There is a long way to go to improve services but these early signs of progress are very encouraging. We now need to keep up the momentum for change and make sure that, no matter where you are in England, you can access high quality care and support if you find yourself in crisis.

Local areas will now refresh their commitments to improve mental health crisis care even further. To help make this happen, the government has announced an extra £15 million next year to provide more places of safety for those detained under the Mental Health Act. The Care Quality Commission has also begun to inspect local health services to assess the quality of care they provide for patients in crisis.

Published 25 August 2015