'It's got to stop': South Yorkshire Police described as 'second-tier NHS service'
The Police Federation in South Yorkshire claims the county’s police service has become a ‘second-tier NHS service’ thanks to officers plugging the gaps.
Federation chairman Steve Kent is now calling on the government ‘to act to stop the police service plugging the gaps of underfunded mental health services’.
He said: “We always have been and always will be the service of last resort, where we plug the gaps from the NHS, from social services, and it’s just not good enough.
“We’ve been having these conversations for probably the past 10 years and nothing’s ever been done about it. We need legislative change to make sure that we don’t actually have the same level of duty of care, otherwise we’re just going to continue to be in this position. There needs to be a change, where the duty of care is put back onto other public service agencies like the NHS.
“Coupled with, of course, funding for them to deal with it.”
He added: “We are here to maintain peace, law and order, and to deal with criminals. We’re not a second-tier NHS service, which is what we have become, and it’s got to stop.
“Police officers are absolutely exhausted and whenever this comes up it puts an enormous strain on them. When we’re taking people with mental health crises into police custody, it’s just not appropriate.”
He said officers were having to deal with members of the public with mental health issues ‘all the time’.
He added: “You’re talking pretty much every day. We’re getting calls for service to deal with mental health calls, to go and section and transport people, which is totally inappropriate.
“If you remove that and allow police officers to deal with what we should be dealing with in terms of other vulnerabilities in society and crime, then the picture would probably change quite dramatically.”
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “I would urge the government to take responsibility, both legislatively and financially, so that real money is put into secure non-police facilities, drug and alcohol services, community health and social care programmes so that the most vulnerable people in society can be helped and protected.”