Police and Crime Act 2017 - important changes

The following changes to law come in to effect on Monday (11th December) and the overarching legislation has been titled the Police and Crime Bill 2017.

These changes will indirectly affect staff from the Trust when dealing with some patients that may be detained under sections of the Mental Health Act. Local management teams have received an update regarding the changes and will be able to support staff as required.

The changes primarily relate to police powers to act in respect of people experiencing a mental health crisis for the purposes of ensuring their care and safety.

Here are the key changes relevant to the bill that may impact on Trust staff:

  • Section 136 powers may now be exercised anywhere other than in a private dwelling;
  • It is now unlawful to use a police station as a place of safety for anyone under the age of 18 in any circumstances;
  • A police station can now only be used as a place of safety for adults in specific circumstances, which are set out in regulations;
  • The previous maximum detention period under S136 of up to 72 hours has been reduced to 24 hours (unless a doctor certifies that an extension of up to 12 hours is necessary);
  • Before exercising a section 136 power police officers must, where practicable, consult one of the health professionals listed in section 136(1C), or in regulations made under that provision;
  • A person subject to section 135 or 136 can be kept at, as well as removed to, a place of safety. Therefore, where a section 135 warrant has been executed, a person may be kept at their home (if it is a place of safety) for the purposes of an assessment rather than being removed to another place of safety;
  • A new search power allows police officers to search persons subject to section 135 or 136 powers for protective purposes.

All of these relate to the main legislative changes, which are:

  • Amendments to sections 135, 136 and 138;
  • Insertion of new sections 136A, 136B and 136C;
  • Making of new regulations: The Mental Health Act 1983 (Places of Safety) Regulations 2017.

For further detail around the changes please follow the link below

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mental-health-act-1983-implementing-changes-to-police-powers

Below are some questions that have already been asked and may support you going forward:

If I am asked if a patient’s presentation is due to a mental health need, how should I respond?

The response should be based on the patient’s behaviour and possible causes. A physical health assessment, if practicable, may eliminate any organic causes for the behaviour would be advised. The police officer is asking for your clinical opinion, the ultimate responsibility remains with the police officer around the decision to detain under S136 (1).

Following the detention under s136 (1), who decides where they should be conveyed to?

The responsibility for deciding the destination sits with the officer detaining. They will contact the S136 suite in the first instance to ensure that capacity exists. They may discuss this with EEAST clinicians in respect of most suitable but the responsibility is not yours. The caveat to this is that if you identify a co-existing physical health need then the nearest emergency department should be the default destination.

If the patient is being restrained by the police what should my actions be?

The role of the EEAST clinician attending is to ensure the safety of all. Establishing that the restraint is appropriate and still needed should be a priority. Conditions such as Positional Asphyxia (https://qualifications.pearson.com/content/dam/pdf/subject-updates/wbl/Advice%20on%20Positional%20Asphyxia%20FactSheet.pdf) and Acute Behavioural Disorder (ABD) should be recognised early as they have the potential to become life threatening if not addressed. If you feel you need more guidance around this question please contact me directly and I will share some learning resources.

 If you require any further support or wish to share a question raised then please contact duncan.moore@eastamb.nhs.uk

Published 6th December, 2017

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