A hub which brings together police. NHS staff, local authorities and other agencies needs to be created in Greater Manchester so the region can effectively address mental health, the Police and Crime Commissioner says.
Tony Lloyd was speaking at a packed summit which brought together mental health professionals from across Greater Manchester to discuss the issue.
Organised by Tony and New Economy, details of a pilot scheme in Oldham for police officers and NHS staff to share information were also revealed.
Tony said: “One of the surprising things I learned when I became Commissioner was the level of demand that mental health was on the police service. I knew there was an issue around mental health, but the scale of the problem is remarkable.
“To make an effective response we really do have to work together effectively. In some ways it’s easy to find the answers – the bigger challenge is identifying the barriers to making effective change a reality so we can break them down. We also need to ensure that all agencies are committed to bringing about real cultural change within each of their organisations.
“It’s clear that in this era of austerity creates real pressures on all public bodies and the only solution is genuine partnership working.”
Tony added that a hub where professionals could physically work together was required to help bring about these changes.
He said: “What’s needed in Greater Manchester is a common working zone to bring agencies together. Locating police, mental health professionals, local authorities and others together means we can dismantle the cultural issues that are barriers to joint working.
“Co-locating leads inevitably to real cooperation and appropriate resolution.”
Tony added he was committed to pooling funding and resources to create the zone and appealed to others agencies to do the same.
Details of a pilot scheme in Oldham to help address the challenges of mental health were also unveiled at the summit.
The scheme, which starts in December, will give all police officers in Oldham a mobile number which they can call when responding to an incident. They will be able to speak to someone at the local hospital who will be able to tell the officer if the individual they are dealing with is known to the NHS.
The NHS will be able to tell the officer if, for example, the individual has been previously sectioned. Sharing this vital information means that the right type of intervention will be made at a much earlier point. Where the individual isn’t known to the hospital, the health professional will be able to advise officers on how best to deal with the person based on the behaviour they are exhibiting.
Speaking at the conference, Oldham’s divisional commander Chief Superintendent Catherine Hankinson said: “It means that for the first time we will be able to make a joint assessment. It’s a really practical solution to an issue which we have had for many years and I hope it means we’ll be able to give the most appropriate care to people who need it.”
Funding from the scheme has been made available from a £200,000 pot of money Tony set aside in the police budget to address the issue of mental health.
The summit was also addressed by Manchester University’s Dr Jane Senior. With 20 years’ nursing experience, Dr Senior is now one of the country’s leading researchers in the field of mental health and offenders.
She outlined the latest research in the field and said the challenges for police and other agencies included the need for better training for police officers, a need to screen all detainees for mental health issues and a national model to develop better understanding of mental health and offending which allows local services to meet local needs.
“This can’t be done in isolation – a multi-agency approach is absolutely critical,” she said.
Tony added the summit, which took place on Friday 18 October, was an important first step in organisations coming together in a meaningful way to address the issue.
“Our biggest challenge is to ensure this is about more than words – it’s about taking effective action. We need to put people at the centre and breaking down the organisational barriers,” he said.