Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I think I’ve worked hard this year – managed to write a couple of hundred blog posts and put out tens of thousands of tweets to raise awareness within the police and beyond of various aspects of this stuff I’m interested in.  As a result of the profile it has all gained, I have been invited to do some amazingly interesting stuff.  I’ve been asked to give lectures at various universities to trainee paramedics and mental health professionals of all kinds and I’ve done this stuff in my own time and at my own expense in the hope of making a difference because none of this stuff is actually my job.   I gave evidence to the Independent Commission led by Lord ADEBOWALE, my work was mentioned twice in the Parliamentary debate on policing and mental health and I was invited to present at next year’s International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London.

So if you think I’ve been a good boy, I’d like to ask for the following things for Christmas!

  • Please remove the words “police station” from s135(6) of the Mental Health Act
  • Please remove the words “place to which the public have access” from s136(1) MHA.
  • Please provide a power of entry without warrant for use in connection with ss18, 136 and 138 MHA.
  • Banish s135 MHA to the history books.
  • Please change the timescale “72hrs” to “6hrs” in s136(2) MHA – if this is too much for your elves, I’ll settle for 12hrs.
  • Please ensure that s140 of the Mental Health Act is given real weight by making it an explicit duty on those hospitals specified under this provision to maintain contingency beds for urgent admissions and ensure a duty to admit patients where applications are made.
  • Please allow Magistrates to remand someone to hospital after their first appearance in court, under ss35/6 MHA.
  • Please insert into the Mental Health Act and the Code of Practice specific requirements around equality of access to healthcare for people suffering from mental disorders.

In addition —

  • Please can all police officers be sent on a one-week mental health training course?  I could even write the syllabus to save your elves some time?!  (Actually, it’s written already!)
  • Can parts of that training please be multi-agency with colleagues from the ambulance service, mental health and social care services as well as GPs and A&E – and led by service users?
  • Can we have legal tests and scenarios to ensure that frontline professionals understand the laws that govern the interface between policing and mental health?
  • Can you please give the police service and emergency services the gift of an operating culture whereby professionals living with mental health problems feel encouraged to seek support and feel that they get it when they ask for it?
  • There are well over 1,500 senior officers in policing and 2,500 frontline clinical staff in my local ambulance service:  statistics alone suggest that several hundred people in each of those groups them will have experienced mental health problems during their lives.
  • Can you arrange to write into law, something meaningful and enforceable about parity of esteem and access to services for people experiencing mental health problems.
  • Please ensure that CCG commissioners think about the reality of the mental health work they commission and contemplate the predictable need to coerce passively resistant, but medically vulnerable people in the community.
  • Can you make sure that the CQC point out the nonsense of denying children access to place of safety services (because they’re not age appropriate) and then closing those very faciltiies to 136 detentions because it has been necessary to turn that 136 suite into an emergency CAMHS bed for a child!

Oh … and can I please have an Terry’s chocolate orange and some brazil nuts and can you please deliver a small Christmas card from me into the stocking of all relevant professionals in the NHS wishing them well in this Yule Tide season and reminding them that A&E absolutely *is* a place of safety where that is the appropriate clinical location for someone to be. 😉



IMG_0053IMG_0052Winner of the President’s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.


12 thoughts on “Dear Santa

  1. I hope that all your wishes are granted by Santa but I have a feeling that you will continue to have to fight the same battles over and over again in 2014. I personally am very grateful for all the work that you do and how you continue to highlight the very real problems that those of us with mental health issues have to put up with. Only this week despite me quoting my rights as an informal patient that I should be able to leave the ward when I wanted to using knowledge gained from your blogs and Mind legal I was kept locked in for 6 hours.

    I think it is still a long steep mountain to climb but thanks anyway and have a good Xmas and New Year.

  2. How wonderful life would be for those who continue to suffer with mental illness and continue to be treated inappropriately if your wishes came true . Here’s hoping Santa has a presence across the country in all of our decision making forums !!

    Thanks for taking time out this week and popping upto Staffordshire for our mental health conference, your input was invaluable. My xmas wish would be to have a Michael in every force.

    Have a lovely xmas with your family, take time out for yourself and all the best for the new year

  3. I like the list & tell the big guy in red that the choc is on me 🙂

    On reflection perhaps this in itself is a sad indictment of my organisational influence & power. To be fair I think AMHPs could make more noise – I often feel that we are almost invisible in all this.

    I did take the opportunity last week to remaind an Acute NHS Trust that A&E & CDUs or AMUs, or whatever they wanted to call them were indeed POS & usually more appropriate than police cells. They reminded me that it was the case only if they agreed & they were vey concerned regarding 4 hrs breaches. I reminded them that it is actually OUR NHS …………………….I have had the same conversation with a MH Trust also.

    Keep it up & perhaps together we can get somewhere.

    1. It remains the case the the police station is only a PoS if we agree, too – often there are perfectly legitimate legal barriers to doing so and I think the police are now beginning to assert themselves with confidence, it shows the system for what it is: poorly commissioned with the consequence that good people on the front line are in combat with each other, more often than is really required.

      Now you mention it, I think AMHPs are potenitally more powerful in asserting for change than psychs or nurses: like police you are a legally warranted official and cannot be compelled to break laws, in fact there is a duty to do the opposite. I don’t wonder that AMHPs and cops usually want the same thing but see the barriers from different sides. If we focussed on agreeing about the barriers and worked together it could change the world, I’m sure. It certainly did last night when I AMHP I’m getting to know in my area went that extra mile, my having done so for her last week.

  4. Back to that partnership working stuff 🙂

    MH services are poorly commissioned & underfunded & lots of AMHPs, police officers, nurses & others are trying hard to fill the gaps. But I agree we (AMHPs) should assert ourselves more. As individuals we are usually reasonably assertive but as a group of professionals we could do more.

    I also agree that we see the same things from slightly different perspctives & that just makes sense. I am a social worker & you are a musical police officer. It is the dialogue that is important & the ability to see the other point of view. It is not always easy in the heat of a difficult situation.

    Keep being nice to that AMHP 🙂

  5. Another powerful and humbling blog. You are an inspiration. Your tireless efforts are bound to change policy, I just hope you don’t run out of steam before time. A true inspiration.

    1. Thanks for saying so – I’m afraid this post has caused a bit of disquiet amongst some service users with poor experiences of the police. It seems that calling for more police powers, specifically to enter the one remaining “safe space”, is upsetting. I have always said, elsewhere on this blog, that if we could configure mental health services to be able to respond in emergency to crisis incidents in people’s homes, that would probably be preferable. However, MH services have repeatedly said to me, that they have insufficient resources to do it AND that they don’t see “running around” to crisis incidents as a desirable extension of community crisis care. It is for those reasons only I’ve reached a conclusion that if we are to avoid leaving people in immediate risk and avoid criminalising people for petty offences, we need to consider the extension of powers. I understand the reservations about it, but on balance against teh drawbacks, I still see it as preferable and it would bring the UK into line with most other jurisdictions.

      1. I understand why you say this & appreciate the fact that you have reervations. I would prefer that MH services were resourced & to respond to crisis & that partnership working meant that when we all needed to go together that it just happened, without it being a debate about who, what a how etc. The public (& my mum) think we are all in this together doing the right thing for the service user & the public etc. My mum is very often just right! We should put you & my mum incharge – she would keep you in check & tell just sort all this out 🙂

  6. I see that in September 2013 Mike Thornton MP presented a bill to parliament under the 10 minute rule titled “Access to Mental Health” Could Santa have been be listening?

    1. and what has come from this….. don’t mean to sound cynical. Let’s hope something good comes from it. I do wish that all that Michael has asked for comes true. Asif AMHP – I agree with a lot that you say, as an AMHP myself perhaps we have more opportunities to change things, however by the time i get asked to do a S136 from the police station it is too late to change anything! On the positive, we have had local police attend our AMHP forums and i do hope this will lead to changes in attitudes from both sides. We all have difficult jobs

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