• New agreement published on police interventions involving mental health and learning disability patients
  • Document sets out when police should attend mental health and learning disability inpatient units and places of safety
  • Imposes strict guidelines of when police should use restraint
  • Providers encouraged to sign up to agreement made by national and local organisations

Providers will be encouraged to sign up to a new agreement on when to use police interventions in mental health and learning disability settings.

The memorandum of understanding, published today, sets out what the police and healthcare professionals are expected to do and how to manage restraint and restrictive practices in mental health and learning disability inpatient units and places of safety.

The document sets out guidance that police should not be called to use restraint or restrictive measures in clinical interventions unless in exceptional circumstances. These include:

  • healthcare professionals have been injured, compromising their ability to carry out restraint;
  • there are not enough healthcare staff to carry out the restraint safely in a timely manner;
  • an immediate risk to life or of serious harm;
  • a risk of serious damage to property; or
  • the patient is using an offensive weapon or has taken a hostage.

The guidance is one of the objectives in the national crisis care concordat action plan and is the first national guidance issued about when the police can be asked to attend mental health and learning disability settings.

It has been drawn up over two years with the help of the Mental Health and Restraint Expert Reference Group, chaired by Lord Carlile, which has members from organisations including:

  • Department of Health;
  • NHS England;
  • South Central Ambulance Service Trust;
  • Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust;
  • the Care Quality Commission; and
  • Greater Manchester Mental Health FT.

It is also supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Nursing, Mind, the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The new guidance will be filtered out to regions through concordat partnerships, however HSJ understands it will be down to each provider whether to adopt it.

Lord Carlile said: “Being restrained by police in these settings can trigger psychological trauma, especially for people with previous experience of physical or sexual abuse.

“The work we have done means every mental health provider in England and Wales now has a single document which clearly outlines their role and the role of others.

“This means the public will get the care they need, rather than control, and at the right time.”

The new agreement relates to the first of two phases of a national initiative focused on police attending mental health and learning disability inpatient units and places of safety.

The second phase will address restraint related actions outside those settings.