Services for people in mental health crisis are to be put under the spotlight this summer with a round of targeted inspections by the Care Quality Commission, HSJ has learned.

The organisations subject to inspections will be pinpointed with new CQC data which reveals organisations lacking  sufficient health-based places of safety for people in crisis, particularly for children.

CQC researchers identified 161 places of safety in England but found more than a third- or 56 locations- did not accept young people under the age of 16.

This meant 33 of 152 local authority areas- 22 per cent- lacked a single place of safety for children.

HSJ has obtained a list of the areas and providers failing to provide a place of safety, see attached right.

People detained by the police under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act must be taken to a safe place where mental health assessments can be carried out.

Although this should be a ‘health-based place of safety’ in mental health hospitals or emergency departments, they are often taken to police station, a move allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers estimate that, in 2012-13, 580 children and young people under the age of 18 were detained under Section 136. Of those, it is estimated that 263 or 45 per cent, were taken to police custody.

The CQC told HSJ the findings would be used as part of inspections into crisis care this summer.

“We will target areas where there are concerns, and some where better practice is indicated,” a spokesperson for the watchdog said.

“The findings of this survey will inform these inspections, and CQC will develop lines of enquiry, methods and tools for the inspection of health-based places of safety.

“CQC is currently consulting on whether health-based places of safety should be a core service, and inspected as part of every comprehensive inspection.”

The CQC has published an online map of places of safety to help commissioners, mental health providers and police forces to have discussions about the provision of places of safety.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals for mental health said: “We are particularly worried about the number of young people affected by this and the fact that so many areas are not served by a health based place of safety that will accept a young person who is experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Health Minister Norman Lamb, said: “It is unacceptable for a child in a mental health crisis to be taken to a police cell because there is no health-based place of safety. Our Crisis Care Concordat reinforces the duty on the NHS to make sure that people under 18 are treated in an environment suitable for their age, according to their needs.”

The full survey findings will be published by the CQC in the summer along with recommendations for stakeholders.