A scheme that sees nurses on patrol alongside police officers in a bid to improve responses to mental health emergencies is to be rolled out to five additional forces.
Street triage teams will be tested across nine police forces, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.
The initiative is already being piloted in four areas - North Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, Sussex and Derbyshire. And now nurses will also be on hand to help officers in West Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Thames Valley and London. They will also support British Transport Police officers.
As well as supporting police on patrol, the mental health nurses will also help officers when they are responding to emergency calls and give advice to staff in police control rooms.
The £2m pilot mimics similar schemes that are already established in Leicestershire and Cleveland. The spokeswoman said that the established schemes have shown that having nurses on hand can help to reduce the number of mentally ill people taken into custody and reduces demands on police time.
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.
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.
Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “Making sure people with mental health problems get the right assessment, care and treatment they need as quickly as possible is really important, especially in emergency situations.
“We know that some police forces are already doing an extremely good job of handling circumstances involving mentally ill people but we want this to be the reality everywhere. By providing police forces with the support of health professionals we can give officers the skills they need to treat vulnerable people appropriately in times of crisis.
“We have already seen encouraging results from the other pilot sites and I am excited that these five additional police forces are trialling this important scheme.”
Policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green added: “These pilots will help ensure people with serious mental health issues are given the appropriate care and support, while ensuring police officers’ time is freed up to fight crime.
“They also show the good partnership work going on between health services and the police to ensure people with mental health issues are dealt with by the right emergency service.”
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