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Mental health patient kept in Norfolk police cell for three days

Picture posed by model of man in a police cell. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Picture posed by model of man in a police cell. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

A mental health patient was kept in a police cell for three days in King’s Lynn because no bed could be found for him.

File photo of a general view of police cells. Photo: Paul Faith/PA WireFile photo of a general view of police cells. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

A second person needing mental health treatment was detained at Aylsham police station for 36 hours as the region’s mental health service struggled to find a bed.

The two cases, both from January, raise further concerns about the number of psychiatric beds in Norfolk and Suffolk which have been cut by 136 - around a quarter - since 2012.

Norfolk police and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) reduced the number of patients kept in police cells, who have been detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, to zero in December last year and January this year.

But in these cases, the NSFT struggled to find beds for people who were arrested, rather than sectioned, and who then needed mental health treatment.

In both these cases the men were arrested on suspicion of committing crimes and were then given mental health assessments.

Those assessments recommended detaining them, but no beds could be found for them.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesperson said: “Police worked tirelessly with partners to identify a suitable placement, however mental health beds were in demand.

“In both of these incidents it was decided that the safest place for the men was in our custody under our and other health professionals care.

“The men involved had complex care needs which meant a specific placement was needed.”

Norfolk County councillor Emma Corlett has raised the issue of people needing mental health treatment being kept in police cells with Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green.

She said: “I will be suggesting that the health overview and scrutiny committee at the county council looks at the issue.”

Debbie White, the NSFT’s director of operations, said: “As soon as the assessment was complete, beds with an appropriate level of security were sought.

“In one case, due to the additional highly complex nature of the person’s physical healthcare needs, it was agreed that a highly specialist placement was required and was the best thing for the patient.

“However, when beds within this specialist unit elsewhere in the country were not readily available, our Trust ensured the individual had a bed within NSFT as soon as the right level of care and support could be put in place.

“For the other individual, a placement closer to their home elsewhere in the UK was sought and found and they returned to their home county for appropriate care.”

In December, patients spent 398 nights in mental health beds outside of Norfolk and Suffolk because enough beds could not be found in the area covered by the NSFT.

The Trust is expected to spend nearly £3m more than budgeted this year on treating patients in other beds.

•Do you have a health story? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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