BASW has praised the Care Quality Commission (QCQ) report on places of safety for people detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act for highlighting the frequency of breaches of best practice.
The report, entitled ‘A Safe Place to Be’ details the findings of a survey of NHS mental health trusts and social enterprise providers of health-based places of safety in England.
The survey found “too many health-based places of safety are turning people away because they are already full, and some are refusing to help people who are intoxicated or exhibiting disturbed behaviour”.
People detained by police under section 136 must be taken immediately to a safe place where they can be assessed, they should only be taken to a police station as a last resort and should be assessed by an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) either in a mental health hospital or an emergency department at a general hospital.
BASW professional officer Joe Godden said: “This is an excellent, hard hitting report from the CQC. It illustrates that best practice is regularly not applied; indeed, it seems to be the norm that it is breached.
“There are multiple causes for such breaches, the most common being shortage of beds but also shortages of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs).
“BASW contributed to this report and fully supports its recommendations. Our members have been telling us about these problems for a long time and many are put in difficult positions to try and resolve problems when resources are totally inadequate.
Speaking to Community Care, Faye Wilson, chair of BASW’s mental health reference group, said: “There are concerns about AMHP (Approved Mental Health Professional) availability out of hours and this reflects the lack of leadership in many local authorities on mental health. It is a statutory responsibility for councils to provide enough AMHPs for a 24 hour service and if this is not happening then serious action needs to be taken.
"However, we know nationally that some issues delaying assessments are not about AMHPs’ ability to respond in themselves but due to things like lack of bed availability or doctors.”
The CQC has made a number of recommendations based on the report aimed at providers, commissioners and other agencies, and has asked all involved agencies to review the findings, and to “take appropriate action where there are shortfalls”.
It has also published an online map that logs all the health-based places of safety to “enable a more comprehensive understanding of the spread of provision across England”.