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'More mental health reform needed'

Calls are being made for more to be done around mental health reform - despite the recent reforms by the Prime Minister.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said that while Theresa May's mental health reforms were a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to recognise the scale of the problem which is blighting large sections of the police service.

He made the remarks following the Prime Minister's speech to the Charity Commission, saying: "Mental health issues are of huge concern to the young, the elderly and all public sector services.

"There needs to be proper investment in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues to both assist officers who manage individuals with mental health issues and, equally, assist officers who suffer with mental health related issues themselves.

"The use of police cells as a place of safety has more than halved in one year but there are still problems facing custody officers who are dealing with mentally ill detainees because the appropriate NHS or social care resources are too often not available. And the issue is not just confined to custody as the police are usually the first to be called when there is an issue out on the streets."

Last month it was revealed that more than a million work days were lost in the police service over the least three years to mental health-related illness. The finding echoed a PFEW survey on officer welfare last year which showed the mental wellbeing of police officers was considerably poorer than that of the general public.

Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation, has agreed with the national Police Federation leader. She said: "All too often, police officers find themselves having to try to help people suffering with mental health issues particularly as the health services, support agencies and voluntary groups have found themselves stretched due to the Government's austerity measures.

"We are not experts in mental health and therefore we are not the best qualified for this role. It is quite shocking to me that so many people suffering mental health issues find themselves in a police cell just because there is no other 'place of safety' for them.

"More needs to be done to ensure that these people get the right expert support and treatment. Equally, we need to make sure police officers who are increasingly reporting mental health difficulties can access the support they need."