Supporting our Health Professionals

Mental Health transfers take up a considerable amount of police time. Police units almost every shift are required to take people into custody to prevent serious and imminent harm to themselves or others. They are often required to personally transport these people to health services facilities for clinical assessment.

Police accept the role that they will invariably play in creating a secure environment for this to occur, however current practices require police to often remain at hospital for many hours until a medical assessment has commenced, or until the hospital has taken control of the patient.

This is a situation, intensified by a lack of resources within hospitals (and front-line police) placing significant burden on police response capability. It is not uncommon for multiple police units to be unavailable to respond to new calls for assistance while they are awaiting handover to clinicians at hospitals.

Moreover, police regularly report that patients assessed by hospitals are often released soon after presentation by police only to necessitate repeat police attendance. Without more accessible support for those with mental illness, a perpetual cycle of police intervention remains.

This situation does not serve hospitals or the community well.

While amendments to the Mental Health Act have tried to alleviate some of the time wasted during handover, these alone have failed to improve the current situation. TPAV believes that a ‘root and branch’ review of the mental health transfer process must be commenced to develop a more efficient model for this to occur. Undoubtedly, this will require a commitment of additional resources to hospitals and the mental health system more broadly.

Police remain committed to assisting in the management of mentally ill people that pose a risk to others in the community during critical events, but this must occur in a sustainable and efficient way.

Recommendations:

  • Establish a full review of the mental health transfer process to inform a more efficient model for the transfer of mental health patients from police into clinical care.
  • Improve pathways to in-community support and in-patient services in order to minimise the need for police to repeatedly intervene.
  • Hospital guard duties that are regularly performed by police in circumstances other than in mental health cases, could be performed by PSOs with full operational safety training and relevant powers under the Mental Health Act.