Right care, right person
Earlier this week (26 July, 2023) the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care published a new national agreement designed to free up police time and ensure that those in mental health crisis will receive treatment from “the most appropriate” agency.
The agreement, titled Right Care, Right Person (RCRP), means that local health partners and police forces in England will work together on joint plans to implement the new approach, working towards ending the inappropriate involvement of police where no crime is being committed or there is no threat to safety. Where police officers do take a person in a mental health crisis to a health setting under the Mental Health Act, this agreement emphasises the need for local partners to work towards handovers happening within one hour. These plans and timelines for implementation will reflect the needs of local communities, as well as the capacity of local police and mental health services, and any additional resources required.
The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat outlines the principles that local areas are encouraged to adopt to implement Right Care, Right Person. These principles are organised under two categories:
- Access to support before crisis point
- Early intervention
- Help at home services
- Respite away from home or short stay in hospital as voluntary patient
- Peer support
- Liaison and diversion in police custody
- Urgent and emergency access to crisis care
- People should be kept safe by 24/7 mental health services
- Access to services should be equal with person-centre care which takes cultural differences and needs into account
- New models of working for children and young people
- Properly trained staff
- An appropriate response & support when needed
- Police should help when appropriate but must be supported by health services
The Government is highlighting the approach that has been under way in Humberside since May 2020. One of the keys to success in this areas is training for staff in police control rooms to identify the right agency to deploy at the outset when responding to 999 calls about individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
When the threshold for police involvement is not met (no crime is committed and there is no threat to safety), Humberside has created new dedicated response vehicles with mental health staff on board to attend calls and provide support, alongside other community-based mental health services.
As well as patients receiving more appropriate care, Humberside Police believe it has saved 1,441 officer hours on average every single month – and a total of 46,114 officer hours have been saved between May 2020 and December 2022.
The Government estimates that if all forces in England realised time savings similar to those reported by Humberside police, this could save up to 1 million hours of police officer time per year, freeing up their time to focus on their primary responsibilities.
No-one argues with the central premise of Right Care, Right Person that people in mental health crisis require an expert healthcare response first and foremost. However, many question whether there will be sufficient funding to ensure the high level of (often rapid response) specialist services needed. The Government points to £1 billion of additional funding for community mental health services but critics counter by saying that this funding had already been announced an is much needed by mainstream services.
The success of the Humberside approach was built on several years of careful negotiation and planning between police and health services. Whether this can be replicated across the country when so many key healthcare professionals are taking industrial action is open to question.