A groundbreaking partnership between police and health workers has been launched this week to ensure people with emergency mental health issues are kept out of police cells and given specialist treatment.
The “street triage” scheme will see mental health nurses join police officers on 999 calls in order to help people who are believed to need urgent mental health support.
The six-month pilot scheme was launched in Doncaster on Monday and if successful will be made permanent across South Yorkshire.
Detective Superintendent Andrew Parker, who is leading the scheme, said currently almost half of all people in the area who are detained under the Mental Health Act are taken to a police station.
He added: “This situation is wrong, and is failing these people. The aim of this scheme is to ensure people who use the new service are assessed by a trained mental health nurse and taken to a safe place, to receive the most appropriate care.
Dr Nick Tupper, chairman of the NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The aim is to ensure medical attention is provided as quickly as possible. Making sure people with mental health problems get the right assessment, care and treatment urgently is really important, especially in crisis situations.
Project leaders say the service will save money overall, as the costs of detaining vulnerable people in police stations will be greatly reduced. Instead, they will be taken to hospitals, residential homes, friends or relatives.