30 May 2023

Bipolar UK is desperately concerned by the Met Police’s decision to withdraw the police from attending emergency related mental health incidents by the end of August. The withdrawal of such crucial support will leave a huge gap in provision and only add to the chaos and confusion that someone in a mental health crisis is already experiencing.
We agree that a police response stigmatises someone who’s experiencing a mental health crisis. Support from a fully trained ‘crisis’ team is usually more appropriate. The reality is, however, that psychiatric services are significantly under-resourced and would not be able to reconfigure and scale up in two months.
In the strongest terms possible, we agree with the concerns raised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists that this withdrawal is unwise because ‘the police are the only service to hold certain legal powers to convey a disturbed person from public places to a place of safety’.
A 2022 Bipolar Commission survey found that one in five people with bipolar who ended up in hospital were taken there in a police car. Of these, 26% had been taken to a police cell. Of these, one in three had been in handcuffs. This kind of support criminalises people and is failing them when they’re at their most vulnerable. But it is better than no support at all.
The Commission is calling for a quicker and improved pathway to hospital admission at the point of need with significantly increased and improved liaison psychiatry services. The Commission is also asking for best-practice early intervention and on-going relapse prevention services to prevent people getting to crisis point in the first place. Never has a thorough review of our psychiatric services across the board been more urgent.

Last updated: 21 May 2024