Met Police send warning over ‘stretched’ NHS services as it rejects 6,000 mental health calls

Funding is needed in London for “stretched” mental health services, the Metropolitan Police have warned, as the force withdraws from 6,000 NHS calls month.

The Met has said its “Right Care Right Person” programme, which led to the police to stop responding to mental health patients where the NHS should be required, has saved 34,000 officer hours since November last year.

In an update six months after announcing its decision to stop attending calls, the police told The Independent that detentions by police have been cut by around half.

The news comes after Nottinghamshire Police have faced scrutiny over the handling of killer Valdo Calocane who was a patient under the local mental health services when he killed Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and Ian Coates, 65.

Forces across the country have been implementing Right Care Right Person, which was first trialled in Humberside, after it was backed by the former home secretary Suella Braverman last year.

Data shared on Thursday shows police in London have attended 6,000 fewer calls which were deemed to be more appropriate for healthcare services to respond to.

The move in London, announced last September, initially sparked a backlash from NHS leaders, The Independent has previously revealed.

Although healthcare leaders welcomed a reduction in the use of police for people suffering mental health crises, concern was raised over the lack of capacity within the mental health system to meet the addition demand.

In an interview with The Independent Detective Superintendent Alistair Vanner, said that the force believes there has been a reduction in harm to mental health patients who can often be criminalised when suffering a crisis.

DS Vanner confirmed the NHS and Met Police have yet to do a formal impact assessment of the programme but are looking at potential data which can be used to assess the safety of it.

In the update on Thursday, the Met said police have been able to respond to 18 per cent more urgent robbery calls and are also able to spend 21 per cent more time at crime scenes with victims.

However, DS Vanner told The Independent investment would be required for mental health services going forward.

He said: “We know that bed availability for mental health in London is stretched. To say the least.

“We know that the NHS that they invest heavily in, community mental health services, but sometimes with community mental health services if someone falls into crisis, quite often because individuals are in the community that leads a call to police.”

“I think NHS themselves would say, significant investment is required in mental health services.”

Since the introduction of the RCPC in the capital, London Ambulance Services have received 200 to 250 more calls a day but said it had measures in place to meet this demand.

DS Vanner added: “Although we are detaining less people under the Mental Health Act, our handover times within emergency departments haven’t been reduced because we know how stretched emergency departments are and the difficulties that they face with demand. So yes, there will always be a need for significant investment.”

Last year The Independent reported on several coroner warning which had been raised following the deaths of mental health patients.

Following the death of a woman in Humber in 2022 a coroner warned the police and local NHS: “While the “Right Care/Right Person” process appears to ensure that the correct emergency service should respond if called, delays in response means often staff are left dealing with a vulnerable person for many hours due to unavailability of emergency services or mental health support.”

The Home Office announced backing for RCPC last year, however, have yet to publish an impact assessment. The first programme of its kind was launched in Humberside.

Under the scheme officers would still be deployed where there is an immediate threat to someone’s life, however would not be sent to calls where a healthcare professional is deemed to be more appropriate.

It has also stopped response to requests for welfare checks on patients, and requests to find mental health patients who have absconded or left hospital.

Emmanuel Kankam, a clinician on the NHS Section 136 advice line at North London Mental Health Partnership said: “We’ve observed a notable change in the nature of calls we receive on the Section 136 police advice line. Initially, many calls came after individuals had already been detained, but now we’re seeing an increasing number of calls for clinical advice before individuals are sectioned.

“This shift suggests a growing tendency from police officers to explore alternative options before resorting to detention, potentially resulting in fewer individuals being involuntarily detained.”

Jinjer Kandola MBE, Deputy Chair, Cavendish Square Group, (the collaboration of the ten NHS Mental Health Trusts in London) and CEO of the North London Mental Health Partnership (Barnet, Enfield, Haringey MH Trust and Camden and Islington MH Trust) said: “The Cavendish Square Group supports the principle that patients should be treated in the most appropriate clinical setting.

“We welcome the significant partnership working that took place between the MPS, NHS, local government, charities and social enterprises. However, the implementation of RCRP has not been resource neutral. There has been no new additional funding for the considerable additional demand redirected to the NHS, local government and the not-for-profit sector.”