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The Met to implement “Right Care, Right Person” scheme to withdraw from mental health calls

Sir Mark Rowley sent a letter to the Met’s health and social care partners on 24 May to give them a deadline of 31 August to implement “Right Care, Right Person” scheme which bans the Met officers from attending thousands of calls related to mental health incidents unless there is a threat to life, The Guardian reported.

“Right Care, Right Person” (RCRP) scheme aims to ensure people who call the police get the best support and service and to relieve the mental health burden on police which was introduced by Humberside Police as an innovation in 2020.

With regard to RCRP, College of Policing said: “RCRP is a programme of work that has been carried out over a three-year period involving partners in ambulance, mental health, acute hospitals and social services.

“These partnerships ensure RCRP can achieve its aim to provide the best care to the public by ensuring the most appropriate response to calls for service.

“This reduces stress on the police and health agencies responding to these requests.”

College of Policing said since the introduction of the scheme, Humberside Police has shown “a more collaborative, informed and appropriate response to RCRP incidents.

“It has also shown a large reduction in the deployment of police resources to these between January 2019 and October 2022. This has allowed the force to reallocate saved resource to specialist teams such as missing persons.”

Freed up resources for police, better treatment for patients

Humberside Police has been judged as outstanding in six out of nine categories in 2022 by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) following the implementation of the RCRP scheme.

Humberside Police

The inspectorate found that patients were getting better treatment and that police had freed up resources thanks to the scheme.

The inspectorate said: “The Right Care, Right Person approach means that vulnerable people receive the support they need from the right organisation. The force has experts within its control room to support those vulnerable people until help arrives.”

College of Policing listed the following positive outcomes for police and partners in the case of Humberside Police’s implementation of the scheme: 

“An average of 508 fewer police deployments per month.

“1,132 officer hours saved on average per month.

“32,828 officer hours saved between June 2020 and October 2022.

“Reduction in the proportion of RCRP incidents deployed to, from 78% in Jan 2019 to 31% in Oct 2022.”

And now, according to The Guardian’s report, Sir Mark Rowley wants the same scheme implemented no later than 31 August across Metropolitan Police Service as the experience of Humberside Police has shown outstanding results.

“We are failing Londoners twice” with the “untenable status quo,” the Met chief said

Sir Mark Rowley

In a letter seen by The Guardian, the Met chief wrote: “I have asked my team that the Met introduce RCRP this summer and withdraw from health-related calls by no later than 31 August.

“I appreciate this may be challenging, but for the reasons I have set out above, the status quo is untenable.”

In the section marked “impact on Londoners” where Sir Mark Rowley listed those reasons, he wrote: “It is important to stress the urgency of implementing RCRP in London. Every day that we permit the status quo to remain we are collectively failing patients and are not setting officers up to succeed.

“In fact, we are failing Londoners twice.

“We are failing them first by sending police officers, not medical professionals, to those in mental health crisis, and expecting them to do their best in circumstances where they are not the right people to be dealing with the patient.

“We are failing Londoners a second time by taking large amounts of officer time away from preventing and solving crime, as well as dealing properly with victims, in order to fill gaps for others.”

“Officers spend almost a million hours a year waiting in hospitals for mental health patients to be assessed”

The Guardian reported that the letter cited data from a national police study that says officers spend almost a million hours a year waiting in hospitals for mental health patients to be assessed, which corresponds to the equivalent of attending 500,000 domestic abuse incidents or 600,000 burglaries.

Sir Mark Rowley claimed in his letter that Met police officers spend 10,000 hours a month dealing with mental health issues, and that it takes up to 14 hours to hand a patient over to medical staff.

He added: “To illustrate further the pressing need for reform, on 28/29 April, the Met received the highest number of 999 calls we have ever taken [9,292 calls]. Only 30% of these calls were classed as crime related.

“The extent to which we are collectively failing Londoners and inappropriately placing demand on policing is very stark.”

The change is “potentially alarming” from the perspective of NHS mental health services

However, as College of Policing reported, there were some barriers to implementation seen in the case of Humberside Police, namely the internal culture, and the management of partnership relations: “An example of this was when mental health providers – despite agreeing with the principles of RCRP – pushed back against the programme.

“This was due to their lack of capacity and a perception that this would increase demand on their services.”

The Metropolitan Police’s move of RCRP is expected to have a knock-on effect on London’s ambulance workers, paramedics and NHS staff as well.

Zoe Billingham, a former Inspector of His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and the chairwoman of NHS mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk, said that the change was “potentially alarming”.

“I think it would be really, really dangerous if the police were just to unilaterally withdraw from attending mental health crisis calls right now,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The infrastructure won’t be in place”

“I don’t think that that’s what’s on the table, but we need to be careful how this plays out to members of the public because of course come the end of August, if your loved one is in mental-health crisis, there’s going to be a terrible quandary.

“You’re going to be worried about calling 999 but on the other hand, they will be simply no one else that you can call, because the infrastructure won’t be in place.”

It was a complex issue, she said, and while there were alternative models to reduce reliance on police all required significant investment.

“It requires infrastructure. It requires resources. And I’d be very surprised if every single mental health trust in London has got all of that up and running by August.”

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Mind, expressed similar worries and called on the NHS and the Met to “urgently” sit down and work out a plan.

“I am not persuaded we have got enough in the system to tolerate a shift to this new approach. I think we’ve got a huge way to go before the system is working together on behalf of very distressed individuals,” she said.

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