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Mentally-ill children locked in police cells

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Tuesday, 01 September 2015

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jail_shutterstock_144132610.jpgChildren’s mental health services have worsened in the UK over the past few decades. There are not enough NHS beds for children who need to be admitted or sectioned with mental health problems.

Around three children in the UK each week who are mentally ill are being locked in police cells. As there is a shortage of beds in either hospitals or specialist units, in the past year 161 children under 18 years of age in England and Wales were held in police custody after been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Clearly this is totally unacceptable and not the right environment to manage and treat these children with mental illnesses. Some areas, such as Devon and Cornwall, are worse than others in the UK.

According to some research by the College of Policing, around 13% of police incidents are linked to mental health issues. Surely it is not right for these very vulnerable children being assessed and looked after by police in the acute stages of their mental illness? Clearly the NHS needs more mental health staff and more NHS beds for these children.

The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat was launched in 2014 and is a national agreement between services and agencies involved in the care and support of people in crisis. It sets out how organisations will work together better to make sure that people get the help they need when they are having a mental health crisis.

The concordat has already helped to reduce the number of people detained in police cells. So without their input this figure could potentially be much higher.

Apparently, the home secretary Teresa May, has pledged up to £15m of new funding to provide health-based alternatives for adults and children who spend time in the detention in police cells under the Mental Health Act. I wonder how this money will be spent, whether this money will make a real difference to children and how quickly any changes will be implemented.

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Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including www.patient.info. She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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