A major new initiative to ensure that health and social care incidents get the best response from the most appropriate agency has launched today (Wednesday) in Bedfordshire.
Right Care Right Person (RCRP) will ensure vulnerable people receive the specialist health support they need, that often police officers are not best placed to provide.
While some health incidents require police attendance, there are a significant number in which there is no safety risk or crime committed, with other agencies such as mental health services or social care better placed to offer this support.
In Bedfordshire over 12 months from July 2022 to June 2023, police officers attended 14,738 reports of concern for welfare and 5,666 reports relating to mental health.
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “This is a landmark day in Bedfordshire for a cause I have championed at the highest levels since becoming the county’s police and crime commissioner.
“While I already fund a mental health nurse in our force control room and additionally, a mental health street triage team, it simply cannot be right that police officers are often the first port of call for vulnerable people experiencing a mental health crisis.
“The public rightly want our officers out there fighting crime, while properly trained medical professionals are much better placed to provide people in situations such as mental health crisis with the care they need.
“I want to thank our county’s other public service partners for their support on this vitally important new approach. This national programme of Right Care Right Person has my full support and I will be doing everything I can to ensure its success.”
Chief Superintendent Jaki Whittred, Head of Local Policing at Bedfordshire Police, said: “Our officers respond to many different incidents, but this does not mean we are always the right people, particularly when it comes to certain health related matters.
“There are circumstances where our partners in health or social care are the most appropriate professionals to offer help and support to vulnerable people.
“Our police officers currently spend a significant amount of time dealing with health incidents, which inevitably has on an impact on our resources and our ability to respond to crime issues that really matter to people.
“We have a duty to prevent and investigate crime and to keep people safe. RCRP will help us to balance those duties more effectively.
“However, we want to be clear that we are not stepping away from health-related incidents and will always attend where there is a threat to life or serious harm to both an individual, or others around them.
“We have been working alongside our partners in health and social care so they can make the necessary changes to their service provision and ensure vulnerable people are given the best possible care by the appropriate agency.”
Dr Elena Baker-Glenn, Clinical Director for Crisis Pathway and Perinatal at East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), said: “We have been working closely with Bedfordshire Police and other system partners across Bedfordshire and Luton in support of the implementation of Right Care Right Person.
“It is essential that people across Bedfordshire and Luton are able to access the correct support from suitably trained professionals when they need it. We will continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues in Bedfordshire Police.”
A spokesperson from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), said: “We are working with the police, and health and care partners to provide the most appropriate care for people in mental health crisis.
“Alongside our partners we provide dedicated mental health response vehicles to the whole of the East of England. We have plans to add 12 new mental health vehicles to our fleet this year. These new vehicles will allow us to help more people in mental health crisis.
“We also have a team of mental healthcare professionals at EEAST and have plans to expand this specialist workforce ensuring our staff can support people experiencing mental ill health.”