Mentally ill should be in hospital not cells, says MP
POLICE in Plymouth regularly have to put people with mental health problems in the cells when they should be taken to Derriford due to a lack of facilities, MPs have heard.
Officers feel this is "inappropriate", and are concerned about the impact it has on the welfare of individuals, the Commons was told.
They have called for custody staff to receive better training, and also for a qualified mental health nurse to be part of the team in order to carry out assessments.
Problems surrounding the treatment of people with mental illness in the city were raised at Westminster by Oliver Colvile, Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, following a recent visit to Charles Cross police station.
He highlighted his concerns during a parliamentary debate which saw the Government back moves to overturn a ban on people who have had serious mental health issues being MPs, company directors or serving on juries.
Currently, MPs detained under the Mental Health Act for more than six months are stripped of their seat.
Speaking in support of the backbench Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, Mr Colvile said: "Hopefully, that will be another step in helping remove the stigma of people suffering from mental health problems, will create a less judgmental society and will stop mental health discrimination."
"This Private Member's Bill should not be the end of our having a better understanding of mental health and how we can deal with patients challenged by these problems."
He called for better training for public servants such as police and emergency workers, improved co-ordination between services, and also making sure funding for mental health "is not just an add-on".
Mr Colvile told MPs: "Two weeks ago, I visited Charles Cross police station, which in 2006 was named as almost the busiest in the United Kingdom, second only to Glasgow.
"I was told that people with mental health problems regularly have to be put into the cells when they should be referred to Derriford Hospital's Glenbourne unit in line with section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. It appears that unfortunately Plymouth does not have the necessary facilities.
"My local police feel that this is an inappropriate way to deal with these people, that in some cases they make these people's lives worse rather than better, and that custody officers should be receiving a higher level of training than is currently available.
"They would very much welcome a qualified mental health nurse being regularly attached to their unit so that correct assessments can be made."
Giving his backing to the proposed legislation, he said: "I support the Bill because I want this to be the first step. I want more training for our front-line service providers and a more joined-up approach. It is not rocket science; it is mental health."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "These long overdue reforms will send out a positive message that the stigmatisation of people who have mental health problems should not be tolerated."