AN ALARMING rise in the number of people with mental health issues being treated like criminals instead of patients has led to Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris demand for more co-operation between the NHS, the police and ambulance services.
The MP wants a ground-breaking mental health "street triage" scheme to be rolled out across the Black Country and the UK after going out on emergency call outs concerning mental health patients.
Mr Morris, who is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, has been campaigning to change the 1983 Mental Health Act to stop people with acute mental illnesses being taken to police cells instead of a health-care setting.
The MP secured a debate in the House of Commons on reforming the system at the end of last year, and has met with Government ministers to argue the need for change.
After going on emergency calls with Birmingham’s street triage scheme he saw psychiatric nurses and specialist paramedics travel with police officers in ambulances to respond to emergency calls, and wants the rest of UK to follow suit.
Mr Morris said: “Last year over a third of people detained by police who appeared to be suffering from mental health disorders and to be in immediate need of care, ended up in police cells and nearly half of deaths in or following police custody were of people with mental health problems.
“In cases where people’s mental illness is putting themselves or others at risk, it is essential that they are taken to a place of safety but that place should usually be a hospital or somewhere else where they can receive the care that they need.
“This new street triage scheme is a fantastic initiative that is helping to make sure that people who are very ill are taken to the most appropriate place for their needs.
“I know that both the Black Country Mental Health Partnership and the Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership are looking at how they can roll out similar schemes in our area, and I hope that we will see this approach copied across the country.”
John Short, chief executive of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s great to see how well our street triage pilot has been received.
“We are really pleased with how the pilot has strengthened partnership working with West Midlands Police and West Midlands Ambulance Service.
He added: “It’s important however, that we continue to build on its success and ensure that people in urgent need of mental health care are supported quickly, and in the most appropriate way.”