Nurses are to patrol alongside police officers in a bid to improve responses to mental health emergencies.
Street triage teams are to be tested in four police force areas - North Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, Sussex and Derbyshire - as part of an initiative funded by the Department of Health and backed by the Home Office.
It has been estimated that police officers spend between 15% to 25% of their time dealing with mental health problems - the equivalent of around 26,000 officers.
And the home secretary has previously said one of the biggest blocks to police officers is the time taken up dealing with people with mental health problems.
Damian Green, policing and criminal justice minister, said: “All too often the police encounter vulnerable people with mental health issues who need immediate care or longer term support which only the health service can provide.
“As the home secretary announced recently, the roll-out of these street triage pilots are a step forward in our ongoing work with the Department of Health and police to ensure people with mental health issues are dealt with by the right emergency service.”
The scheme aims to ensure fewer people with mental health problems are detained in the wrong environment - a problem recently outlined in a joint inspection by a number of agency watchdogs.
Too many people suffering from mental disorders are being locked up in police custody rather than being protected in hospitals or other health-based settings, the report found.
The street triage services have already been trialled in Cleveland and Leicestershire and the Department of Health has secured further funding to extend the pilot scheme to more police forces.
Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “In some areas the police already do an excellent job in terms of their handling of situations involving people with mental health problems and work well with health colleagues to make sure that mentally ill people in crisis get the care and attention they need, but we need to make that the reality everywhere.
“We are launching these pilots to make sure that people with mental health issues get the right care, at the right time and in the right place.”
Elsewhere, an urgent assessment of the availability of health-based places of safety in force areas across the country is to be conducted, while the Care Quality Commission will inspect all places of safety over the course of the year.
The provision of ambulance services for emergency cases involving mentally-ill people is also to be reviewed by the NHS this year.
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