Commissioner praises force’s mental health support team for helping to deal with thousands of police incidents

IMHT Service Manager, Sharon Johnson; Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite and IMHT Lead (

IMHT Service Manager, Sharon Johnson; Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite and IMHT Lead (Nurse), Gareth Hughes - Credit: Archant

Mental health nurses based in Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Huntingdon control room provided advice on nearly 9,000 incidents in a single year.

Funded by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, the specialist nurses who make up the integrated mental health team offer frontline officers support in dealing with people in mental health crisis.

In 2018/19, the team were involved in 8,894 calls, up from 7,123 incidents in the previous 12 months, equating to an average increase of 147 additional calls per month.

Gareth Hughes, leader of the support team, said: "We are seeing an increase in calls relating to mental health issues come through and can have between 20 to 30 jobs a day.

"Our role is quite versatile as there are occasions when we have talked to people in crisis and given support to the police whilst liaising with mental health teams in relation to police matters. We have supported police on help with missing persons, domestic abuse cases as well as advising operations and giving clarity to officers over the mental health act."

Mr Ablewhite said: "It was staggering to see over the last year the team dealt with 9,000 incidents. That is why I will continue to provide funding for this service to ensure we get the best outcomes for people in mental health crisis."

Debra Bevan, the force's mental health policy co-ordinator, described the support team as a 'fabulous resource'.

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She added: "The team provides a valuable service to those in mental health crisis, as well as providing training and support to officers and staff in all areas of mental health. As we are seeing an increase in mental health related calls and incidents the support of nurses is critical."

The support team has been recognised by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group as an integral part of first response work as part of the wider system response to mental health crisis care.

Sharon Johnson, service manager for the support team, said: "Having our specialist mental health nurses working directly alongside officers from Cambridgeshire police continues to prove highly effective. Officers have a direct line to our staff who can advise on the most appropriate help in the quickest possible time."