The Government, today, has published a new national partnership agreement (NPA) aiming to support mental health care, “with potential to free up to a million hours of police time”. This has been concerning for us and our membership of mental health charities (VCSE) providing services for several reasons. First and foremost, it is essential that no healthcare and support policy should ever be developed with the intention of saving police time. Mental health policy should always be about people who are experiencing poor mental health and crisis, and consider the support that they require. And it is these people who will now be left unsure about who to call when they are in crisis, leaving them in a more vulnerable and potentially, dangerous situation.
Whilst we agree that people needing support should be treated by the agency which has the most appropriate skills and expertise, we also need to ensure that those agencies, specifically the mental health provider sector, are sufficiently resourced, to be able to deliver that “right care” – care that is timely, responsive to needs, and compassionate. Faced with this news today, our members already expect an increase in calls to their helplines but have not received any funding to cope with the demand. We emphasise that the VCSE sector needs resourcing and there needs to be an understanding of what is available in each locality and how to access this which will take time but there should be no assumptions made that publishing the NPA means this is already in place.
We note the example of Humberside in creating this in 2019, however, it must be acknowledged that this took a long time to set up and cannot be done overnight. Furthermore, we must consider approaches based on need and not implement a “one size fits all” model where it might not be appropriate. Local agencies must be clear that the implementation of the Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) should be a phased approach and there should be no gaps in providing support to those who need it. This can only be done through funding for all parts of the health and care system, including the mental health charity provider sector.
The Association will continue working with Government and our membership to gather evidence that demonstrates the potential impact and risk of trying to implement this too quickly without the investment in alternative resources and local system changes that are so important.