Under new plans, police officers in England will no longer respond to concerns about mental health if there is no risk to life or crime being committed, BBC News reports. The government says the policy could save a million hours of police time every year. Senior officers say forces have "lost their way" by dealing with less serious mental health problems. But mental health charities say they are "deeply worried" at what could be a "dangerous" change. At the moment, some police forces in England and Wales attend 80% of so-called health and social care incidents. It is expected this will be reduced to between 20 and 30% within the next two years, under the plans.
The government says it is providing an extra £1bn a year, including £150m for facilities to replace police officers, including specialist mental health ambulances, extra capacity for treating patients and "crisis cafes", where people struggling to cope can drop in for help. And 999-call handlers are being trained to assess a request for officers to attend and decide whether someone's life is at risk, there is a threat to the public, or a possible crime is being committed. But Mind chief executive Dr. Sarah Hughes said mental health services were "not resourced to step up overnight." "We're nowhere near a situation where services are in a strong enough place to pick up the slack," she added. The additional funding had been announced in 2021, the charity said, so there was no new money to pay for additional referrals from the police, at a time of growing demand for mental health services.