Tony Hogg reflects on his visit to Plymouth's Glenbourne Unit
PCC Tony Hogg explains why he visited the Glenbourne mental health unit in Plymouth, and some of the issues raised there
My visit to the Glenbourne Unit in Plymouth was set in the context of increasing national pressure for investment in mental health services. There is also frustration from Devon and Cornwall police in the number of Section 136 patients ending up in police custody instead of a ‘place of safety’ as directed by the ‘Crisis Care Concordat’ and provisioned by the NHS. There are also increasing numbers of people arrested for offences who self identify as having a mental illness. The excellent Liaison and Diversion arrangements in custody centres work to divert appropriate cases from the criminal justice system and help the individuals access the care and support they need.
It was clear from our discussions that insufficient progress is being made towards the ‘parity of esteem’ - equal national investment in physical and mental care.
I found staff in the unit sensitive to the time police officers must wait with their clients for a mental health assessment and recent statistics show a positive picture of waiting times limited to around one hour before the assessment can be made by practitioners, allowing the police to relinquish responsibility and return to their duties. We discussed how the Glenbourne unit manages those who are either drunk or violent or both, the safety of staff and the stabilising effect of the presence of the police officers. The unit considered that the police skills in dealing with individuals on the street with mental health problems was very good, recognising that they are not fully trained mental health practitioners. However there was more room to improve the signposting to locals surgeries, care plans and home treatment. GP response to mental-health appeared variable. We also discussed the link with the Safeguarding system.
There are still challenges in working across health commissioning borders within Devon and Cornwall. For example the use by people from Saltash of Derriford facilities. We discussed the emerging level of integrated and joint commissioning arrangements, such as those that have led to a place of safety being established for young people to use while they wait for assessment in Plymouth, taking patients from the whole of Devon. I very much welcome this development.
The presence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) was said to exacerbate and stimulate other symptoms and make a clear diagnosis very difficult.
We discussed the success of the ‘Street Triage’ scheme whereby officers encountering members of the public exhibiting symptoms of mental ill-health can draw on advice from a mental health practitioner in the police call centre. I shall be investing in this service to make sure it continues following the withdrawal of national funding.
We discussed the vital need for data sharing between all those partners engaged in supporting those with mental health problems. All agencies need to access shared data and whilst at a practical level much progress has been made, there is still room for improvement.