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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