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What effect will recruiting mental health nurses to police stations and courts have?

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7 January, 2014

The government has announced extra funding for mental health nurses to be based at police stations and courts across the country.

The primary aim of this scheme is to make sure those with mental health needs, learning disabilities and substance misuse problems receive the care they need, as evidence shows these needs are often not recognised.

 

What do you think?

  • Will this scheme improve relations between mental health professionals and the police?
  • Would the money be better spent providing more mental health training for frontline police officers?
  • Do the headlines on this story encourage the stereotype that mental health patients are more likely to be violent?

Readers' comments (5)

  • Other than giving employment to RMN's, this scheme is a complete and utter waste of time and money in my opinion. Whether the offender has a learning disability, mental health problem or an addiction is neither here nor there, the window for intervention has passed: they're in a police or court cell.

    I've experience of the criminal justice system and the RMN can do as many assessments as s/he likes, but it will have very little bearing (if any at all) on the outcome for the individual concerned as there are processes to be followed etc.

    I suppose having RMNs based in a police station may mean that they can signpost those who aren't remanded to community services.

    There are currently good relations between most police officers and mental health nurses as officers are often called out when people are in crisis in the community and quite often have to sit with service users until they're assessed by the crisis team in A&E.

    Police stations and courts are not clinics or hospitals so nurses will be limited in what they can do or achieve.

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  • I totally disagree with anonymous above. These have been in practise in New Zealand for a number of years with excellent outcomes for the mentally ill. People can and should, receive expert clinical assessment, referral and treatment whether they are in Police custody or in the Court.

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  • I also totally disagree with anonymous above, I feel people will be able to access and receive excellent clinical assessments and be able to be treated a lot quicker.

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  • It was working as a custodial officer for seventeen years in a prison I became aware that many individuals had been subjected to a process which would have no benefit for them or their reintegration back in society. If we can identify people's needs early on I.e in the police cell we have a better chance of supporting the individual reducing the criminal activity. It can only be a positive for mental health nurses to work with police and courts.

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  • I spent seven years as Manager of a Magistrate's Court. I am now a Counsellor and also work as a volunteer with a charitable service I helped to establish at the Court (CASS). CASS works as a partner with Police, Probation and the Courts, triages people attending Court, works with clients on problem solving, makes referrals (based on extensive networking with health, social care, housing, employment and other services) and provides advocacy for client access. This service could easily be located in custody suites at low cost - something the Police were asking for when the NHS initiative was imposed - (we could also support released prisoners, integrating three elements of criminal justice work). CASS volunteers are not qualified MHNs but that is not generally necessary for cells work, so long as there are close links with NHS services. Removing the need for MHNs in cells and co-ordination with NHS staff, would free NHS support to be used in the most appropriate settings, This would also use CASS expertise in providing access to the many other services that offenders with mental health problems need. The evidence that this is effective is in the work CASS does already - 80% of CASS clients in the Courts present with mental health problems. The major problem is access for clients to Mental Health Services which are massively under-provided in our city. Our city does not as yet have a place of safety for young people with MH problems. We saw the crazy situation recently where two MHNs were in the cells but a Doctor and another nurse had to be called to section an arrested man. In this context the question as to whether this is best use of funds is easy to answer - use the third sector to provide those services it is good at, and the NHS for what it alone can do. This needs a more integrated and creative approach, but probably not more money than will be absorbed by this well meaning but ill-thought-through initiative.

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