Image of Healthwatch Norfolk Chief Executive, Alex Stewart with light blue background
Image of Healthwatch Norfolk Chief Executive, Alex Stewart with light blue background

Healthwatch Norfolk calls for more details on Right Care Right Person

Letters are being sent to Norfolk’s police and health bosses to understand what support is in place when the new Right Care Right Person initiative begins.

The new scheme will see police only attending mental-health-related calls in Norfolk when a crime has been committed or when there is an immediate threat to life.

But Healthwatch Norfolk is concerned this new approach will mean people could miss out on the care they need.

The organisation’s chief executive Alex Stewart said: “While we agree that a significant amount of police time available for investigating and preventing crime is taken up by officers attending to people in mental health crisis, we question how those people in crisis will be guaranteed to be seen by the relevant mental health professional or receive the appropriate treatment. The stark reality is that people in crisis will fall through the cracks.”

As a result, Healthwatch Norfolk is writing to Giles Orpen-Smellie, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, and Tracey Bleakley, the Chief Executive of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Partnership, which aims to bring health and social care closer together.

The letter asks both to explain how the new initiative will work in practice and how those affected by mental ill health, their family members, carers, and support networks will shape it on an ongoing basis.

Mr Stewart said: “The recent media announcements will cause additional anxiety and uncertainty for adults severely affected by mental health issues and their loved ones. This will be compounded by the lack of clarity around how mental health services, the NHS, and other bodies, will cope with the extra demand on services filling roles no longer fulfilled by the police force.”

He hopes police and health leaders will be able to clarify this and produce clear guidelines setting out how people’s safety will be maintained and how this work will be paid for.

The letter asks the following questions:

  1. How does the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB) propose to support the increased pressure on the NHS and other health and social care bodies, as they fill roles no longer filled by police?
  2. Implementing a comprehensive initiative like Right Care Right Person requires adequate funding to provide the necessary resources, training, and infrastructure. Insufficient funding in local mental health services may result in a limited capacity to handle the increased demand. How is this being addressed?
  3. When protecting vulnerable communities, there will always be a risk of bias and discrimination. It is imperative that police control room staff, frontline officers and control room supervisors are receiving specialist training, and this is also incorporated in the National Decision Model which oversees how the police make decisions with the other agencies they partner with. What plans do the constabulary have in place to ensure that people are dealt with sensitively and effectively?

Alex Stewart said: “We recognise that addressing these issues requires support from a number of organisations, funding, ongoing training, and evaluation which is a lot of work. Equally, our role is to help ensure the people of Norfolk are getting the support they need when they need it, and it would be wrong of us not to highlight our concerns at this stage.

“We are very aware of the work that is going on to improve mental health care in Norfolk and we would be worried if this very sudden decision is a factor in undoing some of the progress that has been made in recent months.”