EXPERTS in mental health are to support police patrols in Weymouth this summer.

It’s part of a pilot programme spearheaded by Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill to ensure people at risk get help and treatment – and to stop them being locked up in cells.

The 12-month pilot will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and will see mental health practitioners support officers where police believe people need immediate mental health support.

Mr Underhill has spoken out before about people with mental health problems being detained in custody. He told a national police conference last year that patients were being failed by the system.

Around 9,000 people with mental health issues ended up in police custody suites last year and Mr Underhill highlighted police buildings not being appropriate designated places of safety.

The Street Triage service in the Weymouth and Bournemouth areas will start at the end of June and will enhance existing services.

It was announced during Mental Health Awareness Week, which ends tomorrow.

Mental health practitioners will be available at the end of the phone, supporting officers on patrol and when they respond to emergency calls, and giving advice to staff in police control rooms.

Experts will also be based at Weymouth police station and attend incidents where necessary, supporting people of all ages, whether they have learning disabilities, personality disorder, substance misuse problems, or mental health issues.

The scheme will divert people from the Criminal Justice System when appropriate and divert them to community based-services.

Mr Underhill said: “It is crucial that people with mental health problems get the right care as quickly as possible in emergency situations.

“This is a huge step forwards in our partnership work between health services and the police.”

Dorset Healthcare NHS University Foundation Trust said it welcomes the opportunity to work in close collaboration with Dorset Police.

Mental health practitioner Stan Sadler said: “It is our expectation that we reduce the inappropriate use of police cells as places of safety and promote effective pathways of diversion in support of improved health and social functioning at the earliest opportunity.”