UK & World News
Plan To Keep Mentally Ill Out Of Police Cells
Former heavyweight champion Frank Bruno has welcomed plans to cut the number of mentally ill who are held in police cells instead of being taken to hospital.
The number of mentally ill patients held in police stations was 8,667 in 2011/12.
But NHS England has signed an agreement with police leaders, doctors, nurses and paramedics pledging to crack down on the practice - cutting the numbers in half.
In an interview with Sky News, Bruno, who has bipolar disorder, described four police cars turning up at his home when he was suffering a health crisis.
He said it was "embarrassing" - with neighbours thinking someone had died or committed a crime.
Mr Bruno - who was sectioned three times - said he had bad memories of his hospital detention where he was pumped full of drugs and made to feel like a "zombie".
He said police officers were needed in some extreme cases, but were getting involved too often.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described the situation as "unacceptable".
He said even children suffering a mental health crisis had been detained in police stations because NHS services were not readily available.
Today's agreement - called the Crisis Care Concordat - was negotiated by Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb.
He admitted that there was a vast gap in the treatment of mental and physical health, with sufferers of disorders such as bipolar not treated as well as those having heart attacks or strokes.
"When someone has a mental health crisis, it is distressing and frightening for them as well as the people around them," he said.
"Urgent and compassionate care in a safe place is essential - a police cell should never need to be used because mental health services are not available."
He said the practice could have "devastating consequences".
Commander Christine Jones, the national policing lead on mental health, agreed that it was the wrong approach. She said things had improved in London, but more was needed to drive out the practice.
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