February 25th, 2011

Hurry up and wait

Posted in The Job - General by 200

On a  typical late turn we may get between 1 & 5 S136′s across the force area

These are people that either us or the families cannot deal with by any other means than to take them off the streets under the Mental Health Act. Dealing with them this way is usually a last resort because the officer who makes the decision to detain someone under the Act knows they will spend between 6 & 12 hours (sometimes more) babysitting the person in a room at the local A&E while social services & the psychiatric department  fail to turn up at anything possibly resembling a reasonable amount of time.

What happens is that either someone calls 999 & threatens suicide, or they kick off at home & self-harm. They are not suitable for arrest & due to the fact that everyone else can wash their hands of any action & the butt end of everything ends up on the doorstep of the local constabulary, we don’t have the  option of saying it’s someone else’s responsibility so we have to ‘do something’.

We had three 136′s this last set of shifts. When I took over, two officers from the previous shift had already been at the hospital for 5 hours. They were still there 3 hours later waiting for an approved social worker & mental health professional, whose role is to examine the ‘patient’ & determine if they are a risk to themselves or others. If they are a risk they have t0 be taken to the local psychiatric ward for further assessment & treatment.

I don’t have access to any figures but I guess that something over 80 per cent are deemed fit to be released. Some of them go home & cause no further problems for the rest of the shift. some go home & within an hour we are called back because they are doing exactly what they did to get them detained in the first place. Some leave the hospital & walk straight to the local motorway or railway line & the whole process starts over again.

Out of the three we had this week, none were detained. The longest we had officers waiting for an assessment was 11 hours, the shortest was 6 hours. When the mental health professional eventually arrived, she examined the ‘patient’ for under 10 minutes & released her.

I couldn’t help wondering that if it only takes 10 minutes to carry out a mental health assessment, how come it takes 11 hours to arrive to actually carry it out?

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  1. boy on a bike says:

    Why can’t you just take them straight to the psych ward and let them deal with them?

    February 26th, 2011 at 09:44

  2. Young Bill says:

    Yes that is what we do in my area, although the ward often try to get us to stay and supervise (non violent) patients as they are under staffed.

    February 26th, 2011 at 11:22

  3. Ted says:

    In retiral one of my part time jobs is driving out of hour GPs around. Even they hate going to mental health calls because of the time it takes to deal with them

    If things don’t move fast for a doctor there is no way the police will get a fast service.

    The thing that used to really annoy me was that under the Mental Health (Scotland) Act the power used was to take the person to a place of safety. So in theory we should be dropping the person off at hospital and taking nothing esle vto do with them.

    In reality the hospital would not allocate staff to sit with the patient until the mental health assessment was carried out. So the police had the choice of either staying there for hours or walking away and getting the flak later when the patient walked out and jumped under a train.

    The only exception was one hospital that had a secure ward which as well as holding patients under treatment also accepted emergency detentions. Kudos to the Vale of Leven.

    February 26th, 2011 at 11:35

  4. Plodnomore says:

    After several years of dealing with S.136′s (and especially waiting fro someone from Social Services to attend) our Insp told us that as a Police stattion was no longer considered a place of safety, we were to take them directly to the Social Services offices, if during normal working hours, advise staff of the situation and leave them in the foyer with the receptionist. It was amazing how many social workers suddenly became available!

    February 26th, 2011 at 16:08

  5. R.P. says:

    You’re force has a bad policy if this is what they make you do. We used to use the cells until the head doc came along but this was deemed as not acceptable during a multi-agency thing. Now we just take them to the local mental health centre attached to the hospital and they take them. 24/7 as well. The only ones that go to the cells now are the violent ones. The system works well and can we can wrap a job up in around 30 mins 95% of the time. These meetings do have a use afterall!

    February 26th, 2011 at 17:30

  6. Hogday says:

    A friend who is a very experienced psychiatric healthcare professional(NHS not social services) told me that she often urges the police to prosecute in cases where, although the detainee may have a psych condition, their `condition` had nothing to do with what offences they’d committed. She said it was frustrating to see them dance around a system with impunity – a system they knew all too well.

    February 27th, 2011 at 11:37

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