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Hertfordshire Police Federation

Federation calls for investment in mental health services

25 August 2021

Hertfordshire Police Federation chair Geoff Bardell has called for greater investment in mental health services to take the strain off frontline officers and staff.

Geoff says that too many people experiencing a mental health crisis are held in custody when they should be receiving the right care and support in a health-based setting.

His comments come as statistics obtained by the BBC under Freedom of Information law suggests up to 4,500 people in mental health crisis were held in police custody in England and Wales in a year.

The figures come from a report commissioned by Theresa May when she was Prime Minster and given to ministers in 2018.

Geoff said: “It’s concerning how much time, money and effort policing needs to invest into responding to mental health issues. We need more Government investment in mental health services so that people in crisis can get the support they need in the appropriate health-based setting.

“It will also take some of the strain off our overstretched frontline officers and staff.

“Our members are not medical professionals and the right place for someone in crisis is a bed, not a police cell.”

Geoff’s comments were echoed by John Apter, the chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

He said: “It is deeply frustrating to see more headlines revealing members of the public in mental health crisis are being kept in police cells when they absolutely shouldn’t be as they are patients – not prisoners.

“The Federation has been warning about this issue for many years which presents an unfair risk to both people in desperate need of professional help and the police officers left with no choice but to step in.

“If we fail to talk about this the problem won’t go away - it’s almost like a dirty little secret and nobody wants to accept we have a problem when in fact it’s a massive issue which is only getting worse.

“Our NHS and social care services simply don’t have the capacity and policing is unable to say no. This must change.

“Alongside us, other policing bodies, including the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the National Police Chiefs’ Council have supported urgent need for action as the police service continues to be used to plug the gaps of other agencies when they already struggling to cope with demand. This is grossly unfair and must stop.

“I would urge the Government to take responsibility, both legislatively and financially, so that real money is put into secure non-police facilities, drug and alcohol services, community health and social care programmes so that the most vulnerable people in society can be helped and protected.”


September 2022