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Everyone from the Government to the Royal College of Psychiatrists has backed schemes to promote greater cooperation between the police and mental health professionals. However, Home Secretary Theresa May thinks there's more that can be done.

In January 2014 the Government announced £25 million of funding for mental health professionals to help police stations and courts deal more appropriately with people suffering from mental health problems. Nine police forces launched trials of a new Liaison and Diversion services model, involving a 'street triage' system, while several other forces set up their own local initiatives. As part of the scheme, mental health nurses were stationed at 50 police stations across England and Wales. And in July, a new service in London provided police with 24-hour telephone support.

Early results have been encouraging, with a 25% fall in detentions. However, at a recent Policing and Mental Health Summit, Home Secretary Theresa May admitted that there was still more work to be done, including providing better access to health-based places of safety. "We must ensure that - day or night, anywhere in the country - the police and medics have somewhere better than police cells to take people with mental health problems,' she said.

Announcing a package of additional measures to improve police response, she added: "The police cannot, and should not, do the job of healthcare professionals." This echoes the comment made in January by Policing Minister Damian Green at the launch of the Liaison and Diversion pilots: "Police officers should be focused on fighting crimes and people with mental health conditions should get the care they need as early as possible."

A recent Health Select Committee report supports Mrs May's assertion that there is more that can be done to help the police improve the way they interact with people who have mental health issues. MPs expressed concerns about children and young people being taken to police cells, rather than being cared for in a hospital setting by experienced professionals such as psychiatrists and mental health nurses. The Royal College of Psychiatrists have gone further, calling for a ban on any child suffering a mental health crisis being put in a custody cell.

"People suffering mental health problems deserve the best service and the only way to achieve that is for the police, NHS and other agencies to pool resources and work together," commented Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd at the recent rollout of Greater Manchester's mental health triage scheme. However, as Royal College of Psychiatrists President Sir Simon Wessely said in September: "...what we need now is good words translated into good deeds."

Are you a psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health nurse who has been involved in one of the Liaison and Diversion pilots?  Do you have views or experiences to share on the relationship between mental health and policing services? Leave your comments below. 

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