NHS England has called for an end to a scheme that puts police officers in mental health teams, saying it must be “urgently reviewed”.
The scheme, which has been in place since 2018, sees police officers working alongside mental health professionals to respond to calls about people with mental health problems.
However, there have been growing concerns about the impact of the scheme, with critics saying it could reduce access to mental health services and put vulnerable people at risk.
NHS England’s national director of mental health Claire Murdoch said that the scheme had been “well-meaning” but had not had the desired effect.
“It is clear that the current model is not working as well as we had hoped,” she said. “We must now urgently review how we can better support people in crisis, ensuring that our approach does not risk creating new barriers to accessing help.”
The scheme has been controversial since it was first introduced, with some mental health professionals expressing concern that police officers were not trained to deal with mental health problems.
There have also been reports of police officers responding to mental health incidents in an aggressive manner, and of people being detained under mental health legislation instead of receiving the help they need.
Murdoch said that it was clear the current approach was not working and that the focus should be on providing better access to mental health services.
“We must focus on building a mental health system that keeps people safe and provides the right support in the right place at the right time,” she said.
The call to end the scheme has been welcomed by mental health charities, who have long campaigned for a shift away from police involvement in mental health incidents.
“The current approach of involving police officers in mental health teams is simply not working,” said Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer. “We need to ensure that people in crisis get the help they need – not criminalisation.”
NHS England’s review into the scheme is expected to be completed by the end of the year.