Man spends nearly three days in police custody waiting for a mental health bed
PUBLISHED: 08:15 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:17 13 July 2017
A man was held in police custody for nearly 60 hours while he waited for a mental health bed to become available.
The man - one of 10 similar cases recorded by police between May 2016 and February 2017 - was arrested for a public order offence on 5.29pm on January 24 this year.
But after he was taken to Aylsham Police Investigation Centre (PIC), he was referred for a mental health assessment and he was deemed to be in need of admission to hospital. But it would be more than 68 hours he spent in custody until he left the PIC.
A report prepared by Norfolk Police’s mental health lead, Inspector Lucy King, said because the man was registered with a GP in London, the region’s mental health trust was not obliged to find him a local bed. But a bed was found in Hillingdon, London and an ambulance was arranged to pick him up.
The report said: “When the ambulance arrived... the crew refused to convey him as they were not equipped to deal with his level of risk. As a result a more secure ambulance had to be booked but this was not available until the following day.”
He spent nearly 68 hours in police custody, with the amount of time between him being identified as needing to be admitted to hospital, and leaving the PIC, being nearly 60 hours.
This was just one example highlighted as the council’s health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC) prepares to hear from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) at next week’s meeting.
The focus on the availability of acute adult mental health beds was prompted by this newspaper’s reporting of prolonged detention in police custody. And the HOSC put a number of questions to the trust, including the number of beds available, comparisons with the national average the number of readmissions and occupancy levels.
They also asked about the number of times patients were sent out of Norfolk or Suffolk, or to private provision, for treatment. Plus for details on those detained in police custody.
MORE: Success for mental health trust and police forces as number of detained people kept in cells pending a mental health assessment falls
Amongst other things, the HOSC is expected to discuss whether NSFT and the area’s clinical commissioning groups are convinced that if the recommendations of a recent bed review were put in place, that they could manage with the current number of beds.
Other occasions where hospital admission was necessary, but there were delays in leaving the PIC, were:
• May 12, 2016 - Man arrested for assaulting a police officer. No beds were available, and when one did become free there was a mistake in booking an ambulance. He spent 27 hours and 46 minutes in detention.
• June 22, 2016 - Man arrested for a public order offence, had to wait 26 hours for a bed to be found. He spent a total of 35 hours in custody.
• June 26, 2016 - Man arrested for a public order offence. There was a delay of seven hours before an assessment team arrived and a further 26 hour delay while NSFT found him a bed. He spent a total of 44 hours in police custody.
• August 11, 2016 - Man arrested for affray but concerns raised about his mental state. There were no local or out-of-county beds available until the next day. He was detained for a total of 29 hours 30 minutes.
• September 3, 2016 - Man arrested for criminal damage. No local beds available so the next day a bed was found for him at the Denes Hospital, in West Sussex. A private ambulance took him there after 29 hours in custody.
• January 16, 2017 - Man arrested for assaulting a police officer. No inpatient beds were available so he stayed in the PIC overnight until one became available at Northgate Hospital, Great Yarmouth. He was detained for 23 hours.
• January 22, 2017 - Man arrested after assaulting two police officers. No mental health beds were available locally or nationally, so he remained in police custody until January 25, when a bed was found at Hellesdon Hospital. He was in custody for more than 49 hours.
• February 5, 2017, - Man arrested for affray after he had a knife in a public place. He had dementia, lived in a care home, and had suicidal thoughts. The care home refused to have him back unless officers stayed with him. After “lengthy negotiations” the next morning, Adult Social Care provided extra staff to relieve the officers.
• February 17, 2017 - Man arrested for racially aggravated public offence. The duty Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) passed the case to the CRISIS team, who said the case was the responsibility of the AMHP. After some time the CRISIS team accepted responsibility but could not attend until the next day due. Some 12 hours later the man was admitted to Hellesdon Hospital.
MORE: Mental health patients left in cells and secure unit
NSFT said it could not comment prior to the meeting, which will be held on July 20, at 10am, at County Hall.
However, a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “Police cells are not the right place for people in acute mental health crisis. That people in mental health crisis are being detained for up to 68 hours in police cells before a suitable mental health bed can be found is disgraceful. It is also a waste of scarce police resources. NSFT’s claim that it has enough beds would be farcical if it wasn’t so shameful.”
A police spokesman added: “We have a duty of care to protect the people in our custody as well as members of the community. The people involved had complex care needs which meant a specific placement was needed. The role of finding them a bed falls under the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and we cared for them until this was done.”