Police 'picking up pieces of broken mental health system', watchdog warns

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Police have been left to pick up the pieces amid a national crisis in mental health care, a watchdog report has warned.

Stretched forces are responding to tens of thousands of cases that would be better dealt with by other agencies, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson

Officers are often required to step in after more suitable services have gone off duty, the assessment found.

It comes after West Yorkshire Police chiefs warned that they were facing increasing calls on their time despite dwindling resources.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said the inspection found police respond to people with mental health problems with care and compassion.

"But we cannot expect the police to pick up the pieces of a broken mental health system,” she said.

The Government said it was investing £2bn in mental health services, including mental health liaison in A&E departments and community crisis services.

West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said: “It is clear to see from this report, the mounting pressures placed upon policing, which are ultimately emerging from an absence of other more appropriate services.

"This is a familiar story which I have highlighted before and one which resonates strongly here in West Yorkshire and is why I am calling on Government to recognise the perfect storm they are creating through sustained underfunding in recent years.”