The nurses in question will help the police when responding to calls and will help to identify those with mental health problems. Ministers have said that offenders with mental health issues were ‘too often’ only being diagnosed once they reached jail.
The pilot scheme is being trialled in a number of areas in England, including London and Merseyside – it is hoped that by 2017 the £25m scheme will be rolled out throughout the whole of England.
It is well documented that crime and mental health problems are commonly related, but with few resources and inadequate training – it is hard for police officers to spot the signs of mental illness. Because of this, the rate of reoffending is high – but it is hoped that by having mental health nurses helping the police to diagnose those with suspected mental health problems will help to combat against any further increases.
Results from a trial scheme in Cornwall has shown promising results, with reoffending cut by nearly 50% in those with a history of mental health problems.
The scheme could also help in other ways; mental health teams could call out offenders who feign mental illness upon their arrest, allowing only those who truly need help to get it.
The biggest issue with this scheme comes down to resources. Police say that having mental health nurses working 9-5 is pointless, but providing 24/7 hour coverage across the whole of England will be a very expensive task.
It is estimated that police spend between 15-25% of their time dealing with mental health patients, and according to the Department of Health most people in prison suffer from a mental health problem, substance abuse problem or a learning disability.
Being diagnosed early by the ‘liaison and diversion’ mental health teams will allow offenders to get treatment or support, and could even affect the way the criminal justice system deal with them.
Health Minister Norman Lamb has said the following:
“There are so many people in our prisons with mental health problems which haven’t been diagnosed and yet, if we diagnose them and deal with them, we can reduce reoffending. It just makes so much sense from everyone’s point of view.”