Mind welcomes NHS investment to provide 'appropriate places of safety'
Posted Sunday 20 November 2005
Today mental health charity Mind has responded positively to the Department of Health's announcement of £130 million capital investment in the outdated mental health estate.
The Department of Health has pledged that part of the investment will ensure each mental health trust has access to an 'appropriate place of safety' for the assessment of people brought in by police under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. Mind has long been concerned about the use of police cells as 'places of safety'. Unfortunately police officers do not always have the experience and training necessary to cope with these situations, and police cells are certainly not suitable or therapeutic environments for people in acute distress. In 2003/4 Mind submitted evidence to both the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) and the Joint Scrutiny Committee on the Draft Mental Health Bill on these issues. The JCHR agreed with Mind's position, suggesting that it may be a breach of human rights to detain an individual experiencing mental distress in a police cell rather than a hospital.
The investment is also intended to go towards updating and improving inpatient wards and Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs). Mind's 2004 Ward Watch survey revealed the woefully untherapeutic conditions experienced by mental health service users in many hospitals, and the Department of Health's own audit figures show that a third of PICUs and low secure units failed on critical or serious estate issues.
Today Sophie Corlett, Director of Policy at Mind, said:
"Mind has been arguing that dedicated suites for assessment under Section 136 should be available within all major hospitals for some years now. These specialist facilities need to be within a healthcare environment that could also respond to a need for emergency treatment in case of physical health problems.
We welcome the announcement of this investment in the mental health estate and particularly the pledge to provide all mental health trusts with an 'appropriate place of safety'. We hope that the investment will reach all parts of the country, including rural areas. This is a step in the right direction - but it must be remembered that there is still a very long way to go."