On Thursday 28th November 2013, the House of Commons discussed policing and mental health issues in a backbench debate. Brought by cross-party trio of MPs it lasted for 90 minutes in Westminster Hall and covered all of the major subjects of significance.
Due credit should absolutely be given to Madeleine MOON (Labour MP for Bridgend), James MORRIS (Conservative MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis) and to Paul BURSTOW (Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam) for raising the particular overlap of our policing and our mental health systems. It was evident that all three have taken time to understand the interface in some detail and operational police officers were tweeting along to it, saying how refreshing it was to see MPs with a grasp of the detail.
The debate itself is well worth listening to and it contains a suggestion from Keith VAZ, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, that they will be looking at policing and mental health as part of their ongoing work, in 2014. I also must highlight and praise the exceptional contribution of Dr Sarah WOLLASTON (MP for Totnes, Brixham and South Hams) – a level of detail and insight about the broader NHS mental health system that you would expect from a GP and former police FME.
Once I have more time to fully blog on it, I will update this post with a few thoughts., but my general headline is “the main points were all covered” and whilst there was much sympathy with the predicament that many officers find themselves in, there was also criticism of where the police could do better, especially for example, on victims of crime who suffer from mental health problems and who are three times as likely to be victims of crime. This is absolutely correct and provided very necessary balance. I was also especially glad to hear acknowledgement of the impact upon police officers’ mental health of the work they do, especially Madeleine MOON’s comment that police officers “deserve to go home at the end of shift without feeling guilty” about giving a sub-standard service to a vulnerable person because of an inability to access the NHS.
I am especially grateful to both James MORRIS and Paul BURSTOW who were kind enough not only to mention my work on social media and elsewhere, but to do so in especially generous terms. Raising the profile of this under-noticed and badly misunderstood work is the whole point of my efforts and in that regard they have helped considerably in the most prestigious of environments – a true honour.
But finally, Madeleine MOON has been a most enthusiastic driver of this backbench debate and you could hear the passion in her voice during her opening contribution. Her constituency has particular reason to regard these issues as absolutely vital and they will no doubt be glad of her efforts today.
Congratulations to all three of them, say I.
The Hansard transcript from the Mental Health (Police Procedure) debate is also available.
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