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Police and health agencies commit to providing better support for most vulnerable 

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Gloucestershire Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner invited agencies involved in supporting those involved in non-crime, mental health and social care related incidents to a conference last month.

The event was the first key meeting in the county to discuss Gloucestershire’s introduction of the Right Care Right Person approach. This national best practice will ensure the most vulnerable people in our communities receive the help that they need from the correct healthcare professionals in the quickest possible time.

The skills and support vulnerable people may need are often not those of a police officer. However, at present police officers are often the first agency called in distressing situations such as mental health incidents or when people ‘walk out’ from healthcare facilities. Police then spend a significant amount of time on scene, which prevents them from being able to attend other incidents or conduct proactive crime prevention patrols. Furthermore, being dealt with by police can have a detrimental or escalatory impact on vulnerable people, who can feel like they are being criminalised because of their vulnerabilities.

However, there will still be occasions where there is a role for policing, such as responding to calls where there is an immediate risk to life or a person needs to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

The Constabulary has been working with NHS trusts and other support agencies in Gloucestershire to adopt Right Care Right Person in the county.

This conference, which took place at the Constabulary’s training centre in Berkeley, was the inaugural meeting between partners and allowed for discussion around key issues and opportunities, as well as determining a way forward together.

Deputy Chief Constable Shaun West said: “Gloucestershire Constabulary is supportive of the Right Care Right Person approach that is being coordinated by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). The NPCC has stated this approach will assist forces in managing calls for service that relate to, for example, mental health or concerns for welfare.

“Effective partnership working must forge some collegiate challenge, as well as support, if public service is to change. To achieve this in Gloucestershire, we will be working to NPCC guidance and collaborating with our partners and regulators, such as the Integrated Care Board (ICB) and Care Quality Commission (CQC), to spearhead this change.”

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, and Chair of Safer Gloucestershire Board Nick Evans said: “We rightly no longer use police cells as a ‘place of safety’ for people experiencing a mental health crisis. I think the time has come for us to ask whether, in the 21st century, it’s right that the first person who meets a person suffering from a mental health crisis is a police officer with handcuffs, a stab vest and a Taser who might take away their liberty. That’s what the Right Care Right Person approach is all about.

“Of course there will be some incidents that will always require police attendance and the Commissioner and I fully expect those incidents to be attended as they are now. But where police powers are no longer required at an incident, then I would like those officers moving on to the next incident as soon as possible. I’m sure that residents of the county would like to see that too.

“In Gloucestershire, we are starting from a good place after a lot of good work that has already been started by the Constabulary and NHS colleagues and our Right Care Right Person approach can help take this forward to make sure we’re providing the best, and right, service to residents to keep them safe.”

Douglas Blair, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I was pleased to attend this conference and see the way that all partners are working together to agree the best way forward for the introduction of Right Care Right Person in Gloucestershire. This will be a phased approach, and the considered approach we are taking together will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

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