Mental health patient spent 64 HOURS in police custody because there were no NHS beds in the country

A mental health patient spent 64 hours in police custody, taking 22 officers off the streets and costing taxpayers' £20,000 – because there were no available NHS beds in the entire country.

Mental health patient spent 64 HOURS in police custody because there were no NHS beds in the country

At least four hospitals refused to take the 47-year-old in what has been described as one of the worst examples of the breakdown of mental health services in the UK, the Express & Star has learnt.

The man had absconded from a London hospital and was picked up by Staffordshire Police in the county after reports he was urinating and pulling his trousers down in pubic places.

After initial resistance by health bosses, the man was taken to Harplands Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent but just seven hours later staff demanded police remove him.

What followed was an extraordinary 64-hour period where NHS officials in the county refused to take the man into their care, according to police sources.

Police officers from Cannock and Stafford were among 22 officers diverted from normal duties to keep watch over the man as he spent three days in custody between 6.27am on Friday March 6 until 10pm on Sunday March 8.

Because of the man's extreme behaviour, police had to cordon off a whole wing of the custody suite.

Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis has described the incident as an 'abandonment' and 'failure' by NHS leaders and has launched an inquiry where health bosses will called to answer questions.

Over the course of the weekend, hospitals in Manchester, Bradford, and London refused to take the patient, leaving police officers in charge of his care.

Mr Ellis said: "The scale and gravity of failings across the mental healthcare system in this specific case is by no means a daily occurrence. But it does, I'm sad to say, again highlight an abandonment by mental health services of a troubled individual, leaving police to be the first, last and only resort available.

"It is clear from the evidence presented to me so far that this was primarily a failure by anyone responsible for mental health services to grip a complex situation involving an individual who needed healthcare, not incarceration in a police cell.

"This wasn't, on the face of it, even about money. No, this was about a failure of mental health services management to take responsibility and be accountable for their services across Staffordshire, regionally and wider."

In total, police spent nearly 75 hours dealing with the man.

Staffordshire Police has previously said 20 per cent of its time is spent dealing with people with mental health issues that should be dealt with by health workers.

The force and the NHS in Staffordshire have tried to link up services with the number of mental health detentions in custody in 2014 down to 69 from 168 in 2012.

Police sources told the Express & Star senior officers were 'furious' by the incident and feared the situation was getting 'worse rather than better'.

Another source revealed that Staffordshire Police had even considered billing the NHS for the fiasco.

Mr Ellis added: "The events over this long weekend are a stark reminder that no matter how much money is provided, it takes organisations and the management of those organisations to be responsible and accountable; something that simply didn't happen here over a four day period. I cannot imagine the impact this experience had on an individual who already had enormous challenges to cope with and I understand his health deteriorated very significantly during the period. That is tragic and was avoidable."

The NHS in Staffordshire has admitted there is no psychiatric intensive care unit to deal with major mental health crises.

Andy Rogers, director of operations for North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Harplands, said: "Although it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the individual case you have shared with us, for reasons of patient confidentiality, we do everything in our power to support service users who come into contact with police. Every effort is made by both NHS and police staff, working together, to ensure each client is located in the place most appropriate to their needs.

"There are occasions where a patient needs higher levels of specialist support in a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU). There is currently no PICU in North Staffordshire; however, we are working closely with our commissioners to develop a business case for such care."

A Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: "Where there is a requirement for psychiatric intensive care in Northern Staffordshire, we work closely with neighbouring NHS providers who operate psychiatric intensive care units to enable safe and transfer for patients.

"Currently we are working with North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust to look at the possibility of setting up a local psychiatric intensive care unit."

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