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Police now the ’24/7 default service’ for mental health

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE deals with around 200 mental health incidents every week, its Chief Constable has told members of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Mark Collins said there is continued demand on the force, which is seen as the ‘24/7 default service’ for people suffering with mental health, but welcomed collaboration with Hywel Dda University Health Board to tackle the problem and ensure people are properly cared for.

The Chief Constable is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Mental Health and Policing, and addressed the Panel after it asked for assurance that adequate priority is being given to the issue as part of the Force’s annual Police and Crime Plan.

Within the plan, the Commissioner has committed to improving understanding of mental health demands by working in partnership with other services and with people who have experience of mental ill health, and advocating a reasonable and proportionate response by front-line staff when dealing with people experiencing mental ill health.

He has also committed to ensuring that people suffering from mental ill health are treated in a health facility and not detained in custody.

Mr Collins gave the Panel an outline of the national picture which raises concerns about the level of police involvement in responding to mental health problems, saying that the police service is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

Police operation on Mount Estate, Milford haven on June 12, 2018 (Pics: Herald)

“The main issue is the continuing demand on the force,” he said. “We have 50-60 calls per day relating to mental health in Dyfed Powys. Our triage team deal with over 200 incidents a week.

Unfortunately, the police is a 24/7 default service.

“We’ve been able to reduce priority calls because we are carrying out welfare checks, but collaboration is the most important way forward.

“I welcome the latest announcements from Hywel Dda University Health Board regarding community care cafes in the Dyfed Powys area, with provision in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. For me, it’s that step beyond triage.”

The Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel has identified mental health as one of the key themes it will scrutinise during the year.

Independent Panel member Helen Thomas said she welcomed the focus that mental health is receiving.

She said: “I would like to thank the Commissioner and Chief Constable for this report. The facts you have given us are worrying. The demand on the police service cannot be under estimated. The focus needs to be on the police service and the huge demands on it.

“Not to be using cells is a huge advance but of course you have to have an alternative suitable accommodation and that’s a challenge. I look forward to hearing the improvements in the future.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s full report on Mental Health and Policing in Dyfed Powys, can be found as part of the agenda papers for the July 2019 meeting of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Find this, along with information about the Panel, its members, future meeting dates and more, at www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

More on police and mental health

by Rhys Williams

A REPORT was released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services last year, titled ‘Policing and Mental Health – Picking Up the Pieces’.

The Inspectorate revealed concerns that the police are working beyond their duty, and questioned whether the police should be involved in responding to mental health problems to the degree that they are.

Feedback from officers, partners, service users and some limited data indicates that in some cases the police service is stepping in to fill shortfalls in health services. This may include: transporting someone to hospital because an ambulance isn’t available; waiting with someone in hospital until a mental health place is found or checking on someone where there is concern for their safety.

Often, as a 24/7 service, police are the only professionals available to respond because the person is in crisis ‘out of hours’. The report’s detailed analysis shows that the peak time for calls to police for support with mental health-related incidents is between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday, towards the end of the working day.

The report also found that mental health crisis is often preventable and avoidable. It is far cheaper for health agencies to intervene early than pay for specialist crisis treatment after harm and distress has already been caused.

For example, in their force management statements (FMS), 13 forces cited the pressure that responding to repeat callers places on an already busy command and control system. If services were in place to treat people earlier, the cost savings would be significant.

The same point was made in the 2016 State of Policing report: “By the time depression or some other mental disorder has been allowed to advance to the point that someone is contemplating suicide, or engaging in very hazardous behaviour, many opportunities to intervene will have been missed by many organisations. When that intervention takes place on a motorway bridge or railway line, or when someone is holding a weapon in a state of high distress, the expense to all concerned is far higher than it should be. The principal sufferer is the person who is ill, especially when it is realised that his or her suffering could have been much less or even avoided altogether. Then there is the economic cost in terms of the expenditure of time and effort by the police and other public services, as well as the expense and trauma sustained by those adversely affected by the crisis at the time. The economic arguments for earlier intervention intensify the health and moral ones already in play.”

It was also suggested that the Crisis Care Concordat, a national agreement between local services and agencies involved in the support of people in mental health crisis, is a step in the right direction, but there still needs to be a rethink.

The report read: “All services and agencies have done considerable work to improve the response to those with mental health problems. A culmination of this collaboration is the Crisis Care Concordat, in which 22 bodies committed to improving the service and experience of those people with mental ill-health.

“However, people with mental health problems need expert support, and all too often this isn’t available when people need it. The fact that people are calling the police to access health care is untenable, and the evidence later in our report shows that the demand for police to respond to mental health-related calls is increasing. We believe there needs to be a radical rethink to guarantee a timely expert response from health services.”

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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent

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A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to a Herald reporter Callum Hicks said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, he said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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