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Patients will be locked up

Thursday 5th January 2012 (Andrew Griffiths)

MENTALLY ill patients could end up being locked in police cells if Burton’s Margaret Stanhope Centre is closed, the town’s top cop has warned.

Chief Inspector Steve Maskrey, commander of Burton Local Policing Unit, raised his fears in a letter to the town’s Tory MP, Andrew Griffiths.

“We do have concerns that should the Margaret Stanhope Centre close this will impact on the service we provide to mentally vulnerable people,” the officer wrote, explaining that officers’ current practice was to use the unit as a ‘place of safety’ for patients detained under the Mental Health Act.

“Our first concern is that it will lead to them having to be transported increased distances, such as to the George Bryan (Centre) at Tamworth.

“This will clearly involve police resources for longer than had they been able to go to the Margaret Stanhope Centre.

“Our second concern is that should there be insufficient places available at alternative centres, this will lead to people having to be detained in Staffordshire custody suites.

“Our current practice is that only persons detained under the Mental Health Act who are violent and unmanageable should come into custody.”

Ch Insp Maskrey told the MP that the police’s concerns had been raised with their ‘NHS partners’ and that they were awaiting a response.

He ended by agreeing that officers were ‘keen to work with our NHS partners to ensure the best possible service is given to vulnerable people in our communities’.

Mr Griffiths said the letter offered further compelling evidence why South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) and South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust should abandon their proposal to close the Margaret Stanhope as part of a shake-up of inpatient psychiatric services.

“This letter confirms our worst fears that if the Margaret Stanhope closes vulnerable mentally ill people face being locked up in a cell rather than getting the care they need in hospital,” he said.

“It also confirms that police officers will be tied up transporting people across the county when they should be out on the streets fighting crime.

“We can’t have a situation where the most vulnerable in our society at a low point of their lives are facing the four walls of a cell rather than the friendly faces of doctors and nurses who can care for them.

“It would clearly be an unacceptable service and potentially put people’s safety at risk because officers’ time will be taken up.

“It’s hard to see how these concerns could be satisfied by the PCT because if the Margaret Stanhope closes the police will simply have no choice.”

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