Bedfordshire Police has introduced a new policy called “Right Care, Right Person” (RCRP) to streamline their response to 999 calls involving mental health issues. The policy aims to ensure that officers can focus on their trained duties by directing non-life-threatening or non-criminal mental health calls to appropriate resources. In 2023 alone, the force received approximately 14,000 welfare calls, prompting the adoption of RCRP.
This approach reflects a growing trend among police forces across the country, as mental health call-outs place significant strain on resources and require specialized expertise that officers may not possess. Due to the lack of available NHS staff and funding, the police have become a safety net for individuals experiencing mental health crises. However, concerns have been raised about the availability of resources and funding for alternative crisis support.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has yet to respond to requests for additional funding, leaving partner agencies apprehensive about potential gaps in care. Additionally, questions have been raised regarding the national funding for RCRP. The DHSC has stated that local implementation plans will consider the specific needs and capacity of individual communities, as well as the necessary resources.
Bedfordshire Police’s implementation of RCRP is aimed at directing resources where they are most needed, such as preventing violence and addressing serious youth violence. Call handlers are faced with the challenge of making prompt decisions regarding the urgency of each situation, and there is a clear line of escalation for uncertain circumstances.
To support the implementation of RCRP, Bedfordshire has established a mental health street triage team comprising mental health nurses, police officers, and ambulance staff. This collaborative effort has proven successful in preventing unnecessary visits to A&E departments. The local mental health trust is also exploring partnerships with voluntary organizations like Samaritans to provide additional support for calls. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about available help and improve access to appropriate care.
As the implementation of RCRP continues, it remains to be seen how effectively the redirected mental health calls will be handled and whether the alternative crisis support resources will be sufficient. The government’s response to funding requests and its commitment to addressing mental health crises will play a crucial role in determining the success of this new policy.