Mental health patients kept in police cells and enduring 8-hour waits for ambulances

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Councillors have been made aware that there are mental health patients detained under the Mental Health Act in Norfolk who have had to wait up to eight hours for an ambulance to transport them to a hospital.

The same report states that during the last year, police cells were being used as places of safety for people going through a mental health crisis. This is only meant to happen during exceptional circumstances.

Health bosses have insisted that appropriate action is being taken. This includes a pilot scheme where a mental health practitioner will be based in the police call centre to offer advice and ambulances are made available for sectioned people more quickly.

Discussions are under way to enable the three section 136 suites, places where patients should be placed rather than in police cells, to obtain permanent members of staff.

Currently, it is necessary for staff to be released from their other duties to attend to patients in those suites at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth and Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich.

A service where a mental health practitioner will accompany police officers to do an assessment regarding the patient’s detention may also be introduced.

This situation has occurred when ambulances are diverted to higher priority cases.

The Clinical General Manager at East of England Ambulance Service Trust, Tim Hayes, has stated that it is of importance that all patients, regardless of whether they are suffering from mental or physical problems, receive the correct treatment, at the correct time, in the correct place. He stated that they have introduced a pilot scheme in Suffolk and Norfolk where the mental health professional who is with the patient makes a decision on the timeframe for their patient’s collection.

Another area that was opened up to criticism is the lack of specialist beds for mental health patients. Some patients have had to be transferred to beds outside of Norfolk.

Councillors were told by the NHS Norfolk’s Clive Rennie that a national bed shortage was the reason for patients being moved. He said that these patients are carefully monitored and they aim to return them to Norfolk as soon as they possibly can.

Image Credit: Benjamin Ellis

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