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Bed shortage hurdle for new mental health laws

Bed shortages could cause difficulties in meeting new time limits on the assessment of patients detained under the Mental Health Act.
michael brown

Bed shortages could cause difficulties in meeting new time limits on the assessment of patients detained under the Mental Health Act

A shortage of beds could make it hard to meet new time limits for assessing patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, the Mental Health Practice Conference heard.

Changes to the Act expected to take effect soon will present challenges for both mental health nurses and police officers, the conference was told.

They will see the time a person can be detained under Sections 135 and 136 of the Act reduced to 24 hours from 72 hours. These sections concern the powers of police to detain people who need immediate psychiatric support in places of safety, which include hospitals, a

Bed shortages could cause difficulties in meeting new time limits on the assessment of patients detained under the Mental Health Act

michael brown
A bed shortage could make it hard to complete assessments in 24 hours,
Michael Brown told the conference. Picture: Neil O'Connor

A shortage of beds could make it hard to meet new time limits for assessing patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, the Mental Health Practice Conference heard.

Changes to the Act expected to take effect soon will present challenges for both mental health nurses and police officers, the conference was told.

They will see the time a person can be detained under Sections 135 and 136 of the Act reduced to 24 hours from 72 hours. These sections concern the powers of police to ‘detain’ people who need immediate psychiatric support in ‘places of safety’, which include hospitals, a relative’s home and, as a last resort, police cells.

Time for assessment

The changes also aim to restrict the use of police cells to exceptional circumstances for adults and ban them altogether for under 18s.

College of Policing national mental health coordinator Inspector Michael Brown said the new time limit could pose problems in completing the assessment, particularly if there are no hospital beds available in the area.

‘The challenge here seems to be beds. All our partners are saying they think they may struggle to complete in 24 hours, not because of the difficulty in finding doctors or other approved mental health professionals, but because of beds,’ he said.

Inspector Brown also told the conference, held in Manchester on May 10, that 33% of all UK police demand is connected with mental health. This demand has risen by 26% over the past three years.

Missing people

One in three missing people are thought by relatives or people connected to them to have a mental health issue such as suicidal thoughts, according to National Crime Agency figures.

The amendments, enacted within the Policing and Crime Act 2017, were due to come into effect this month but have been pushed back because of the general election.

It is now thought they will not be introduced until July at the earliest. Guidance is also expected shortly on the changes.

In other news:

Living in poverty 'having devastating effect on children's health'

Poll points to nurses' political leanings ahead of general election

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