A new mental health initiative to help sufferers has been unveiled.

It sets out shared national principles to bring together a multi-agency response to individuals in mental health crisis.

Police and Crime Commissioners, including Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill and a number of national organisations have signed a pledge to improve crisis care for people with mental health needs across England.

Reports indicate that responding to the needs of individuals with mental health needs can account for up to 20 per cent of police time when, in many cases, many of these individuals need help from health and social care agencies, not the police. Statistics show that of all the detentions under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, in 36 per cent of cases individuals were taken to police cells, not a place of safety with trained health professionals. The legislation was designed so that police cells could be used only exceptionally as places of safety. Martyn Underhill, Chairman of the PCC Mental Health Working Group and PCC for Dorset, said: “Police and Crime Commissioners have led a vigorous campaign to ensure that detainees and victims of crime with mental health problems receive the right care, at the right time and in the right place.

“The Mental Health Concordat brings Police and Crime Commissioners and partner agencies together under a joint approach for assessing and improving the care of people in mental health crisis. My colleagues and I are leading work locally to develop action plans to deliver the Mental Health Concordat’s principles.

“In Dorset, in keeping with several other areas of the country, we have a pilot street triage scheme to improve mental health care for those in crisis launching in a few weeks’ time. We also have a Liaison and Diversion pilot in our custody suites.

The Concordat core principles and outcomes are: • Access to support before crisis point.

• Urgent and emergency access to crisis care with the explicit recognition that police officers should not have to consider using police custody as an alternative just because there is a lack of local mental health provision, or unavailability at certain times of the day or night.

• The right quality of treatment and care when in crisis.

• Recovery and staying well, and preventing future crises.