I’m now going to have at least a full week off from blogging after having posted a piece about s135(2) warrants which brings to an end a set of articles about AWOL patients. Incidentally, I’ve noticed today’s AWOL blogs have been especially well-read – I wonder why?!
There are now 55 posted articles on different aspects of policing and mental health – this has covered law, guidelines, partnerships and other difficulties. I have tried to address each of the particular sticking points about particular functions, like s136 and s135 and offer practical guidance for solutions either operationally, or within discussions about setting local protocols. Within, I have been critical of some police practices, as well as some mental health and NHS practices.
Although there is still more to do, I can foresee that before I reach 100 pieces I will have exhausted what I want to say and what I want to make available. Apart from some presentational tinkering to make it more of a standing resource, with a particular focus on frontline police officers there will be nothing more to say beyond the occasional comment on a noteworthy news event or court case.
It’s then a question of getting on with it – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The trick with this stuff has always been and will always be – whether professionals, especially leaders, in our police and various mental health, social care and other organisations actually want to take the necessary time to get their heads around this kind of material, the difficulties of working in partnership at the interface of many NHS organisations. Do they then want to train staff to succeed?
I am convinced that it is ill-founded perceptions of complexity that prevent this: we all too often don’t understand each other or each other’s roles. But we DO understand what the issues are:
- s136 Place of Safety arrangements – drugs, alcohol, violence, children, learning disabilities.
- Assessment on Private Premises assessments – occasional inappropriate use of the police; frequent misunderstanding about warrants.
- AWOL patients – minimising numbers by understanding prevention; understanding roles for notification, search and recovery.
- Diversion and prosecution arrangements – how should we decide who to prosecute and when?
- Inadequate police responses to violence – NHS staff in psychiatric facilities all too often deserve a better response than they get when they have been assaulted at work. Improved investigation and greater use of out of court disposal and formal prosecution.
- Police support to the NHS – the extent and type of that support for urgent transfers, medication etc.. That speaks for itself.
There is a checklist for senior officers on this blog, which I know has already been picked up by some senior NHS managers. It outlines a template with links to other references and sources.
The Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales have just confirmed to me that it is being emailed to all 1,400+ of their senior officers next week. Credit where it’s due: that is humbling and I’m extremely grateful for such support.
I am convinced in an era of public service reviews, there are long-term financial as well as opportunity cost savings to be found within this area of business. Not least because a death-in-custody inquiry following a controversial detention and the use of a controversial pathway costs millions. <<< And that is not even the most important cost. Far greater the cost to the family of people who will forever feel let down and to general public confidence in policing. If it is perceived that the police cannot keep vulnerable people safe and do the right thing, then what hope more complex tasks?
What I know from my own professional outlook is this: if partnership protocols and arrangements are not put into the kind of order that would survive contact with domestic and European law, I will be thinking very carefully about whether to comply with them. My first duty is to the law and I’m not only entitled, but obligated to resist breaching it. When I am implicitly invited by poor or non-existent local arrangements to decide whether to breach laws for which there is no excuse OR breach a local protocols for which there is every explanation: it’s not even a hard decision.
So the real challenge here is leadership. I have met many dedicated, committed, inspirational NHS leaders during my years working in this area and some without the faintest idea how to start approaching this area of business and who assume that if they do nothing, the police will indefinitely continue to put their arm in the mangle, to plug gaps in services.
Equally, I know senior officers who recognise the need to make progress here and are actively committed to it; but some are caught in the headlights of how to proceed amidst almost unfathomable NHS commissioning structures and there are a very few who don’t seem to grasp the need to proceed at all because mental health disasters have not featured on their radar. Either way, police officers have for years been quite frustrated at their safety, good will and legal integrity being taken for granted and deserve to be led.
In approaching the issue of organisational shortcomings, we tend to look first through the window and out to the world. We would do well to look in the mirror at ourselves.
There comes a point where it’s ‘leadership time’ because we can’t just keep talking about this for ten more years: are we going to do this properly or not? Because if ‘not’, I just need to know this so that I can police in a way which ensures that the right people will be accountable afterwards when I’ve done my best.