A major consultation into the treatment of people with mental health concerns by the police and criminal justice system has found gaps in the support available and an inconsistent approach between the organisations.
The full results of the Time 2 Listen report will be revealed by Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold on June 5.
The consultation, believed to be the first of its kind ever held in the county, involved more than 1,200 people who have either mental illness, autism or ADHD, as well as more than 260 professionals working in health, policing, criminal justice and the voluntary sector.
Its results contain 34 recommendations for criminal justice and health agencies, along with an action plan to implement them through two existing, multi-agency groups - the Mental Health Transformation Board Steering Group and the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Board.
Mr Mold, who set up the survey, said: “Mental health concerns are a major factor driving demand for policing services and I wanted to understand how it feels for a vulnerable person - whether they have mental illness, autism or ADHD - when they come into contact with our services.
“Some of the testimony from people we spoke to was extremely hard to hear. This has shown me that we have a lot of work to do so that vulnerable people receive the proper support. We also have to make sure that professionals understand each other’s role and are better co-ordinated across all the agencies to reduce the impact of mental health concerns on services. And professionals need better support too.
“My role is to ensure the voice of the people is heard in policing: we asked people to talk to us and now have to act on what we have heard. The publication of the Time 2 Listen report and the action plan that flows from it are a serious commitment to make things better. Agencies must develop a really effective partnership around this issue and I am committed to taking the recommendations of this report forward.”
People with mental health concerns are much more likely to come into contact with the police, either as victims or offenders.
It is estimated that at least 20 per cent of all incidents dealt with by Northamptonshire Police each year are related in some way to mental health, although the real figure may be much higher.
And up to 90 per cent of people in prison and two-fifths of people on community sentences have some sort of mental health concern.
Chief Constable Simon Edens, said: “I welcome the results of this consultation as they provide us with a clear picture of what is working well and equally, what we need to do as a force to improve the experiences of those with mental health issues.
“I am a strong advocate for mental health and for raising the standards of our interaction with people affected by mental health issues - it is absolutely imperative that they are receiving the quality of service they deserve.
“The force will be working closely with the Police and Crime Commissioner to take the recommendations in the report forward and I want to assure people that we will act on the issues they have raised and make improvements based on what they have taken the time to tell us.”
Some of the 34 recommendations in the report include a consistency of approach across all service providers so that people know what to expect and that services are of uniformly high qualit, developing a shared vision across the criminal justice and health systems, with joint commissioning of services such out-of-hours support, and shared training of professionals to ensure high-quality services and awareness of each other’s roles and responsibilities
Gordon King, deputy director of adult mental health and speciality services at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) said: “As a Trust, we work closely with Northamptonshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioners Office to provide healthcare for those in contact with the police and criminal justice system.
"The response to this consultation provides useful insight into the experiences of vulnerable people and helps us to work collaboratively with them and our policing service colleagues to meet the needs and challenges they come across.
“We acknowledge the recommendations outlined in this report and have already begun the work with our policing service colleagues to provide a smooth healthcare transition for service users through the custody pathway.”