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AUDIO: 'Place of safety' opens in Harrogate

AUDIO: 'Place of safety' opens in Harrogate

Published at 7:34am 18th August 2015. (Updated at 10:49am 24th August 2015)

A new 'place of safety' has opened in Harrogate for people detained under the Mental Health Act.

Up until last year, North Yorkshire had been the last county in the UK to provide facilities, meaning detainees would routinely end up in a police cell.

The new assessment suite, at Harrogate District Hospital, will be the fourth in the county, alongside similar units in York, Scarborough and Northallerton.

The suite, run by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), has been made possible through a partnership with NHS Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group which is funding the service, North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire County Council and Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Patrick Scott, head of service, adult mental health and substance misuse, said: "The suite provides vulnerable people with the opportunity to have their mental health needs assessed in a suitable health environment. Previously these people would have been detained in a custody suite, even if they had not committed a crime.

"Health professionals work together to assess a patient and arrange appropriate care and treatment where necessary. This opportunity has also allowed us to develop further partnership working with police, county council, ambulance services etc, to ensure every individual is cared for in the best possible way."

Dr Rick Sweeney, GP and Governing Body Member at NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG, added: "We have been committed to establishing a place of safety in our area since we became responsible for commissioning health services in Harrogate and Rural District.

"The opening of the suite is an excellent demonstration of organisations working together to provide high-quality services for some of the most vulnerable people in our community."

Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "The opening of a health-based place of safety for Harrogate is very welcome news.

"Police cells are no place for people who are suffering from a mental health crisis, nor are police officers mental health specialists. It is vitally important that anyone who is in such a situation receives the appropriate care and support when they are at their most vulnerable.

"Working together with the NHS and other agencies, we have made huge advances over the past 18 months and now have four places of safety across the North Yorkshire Police area. However, there is still much more to do. Our work with partner agencies will continue until we reach our aim for 2016 that no detainees should be held in police cells if their reason for being arrested is purely on mental health grounds."

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: "I am delighted to see this fourth and final health-based place of safety opening in North Yorkshire. For too many years vulnerable people in need of medical support have had no alternative than to be detained in police cells.

"I am therefore grateful to the NHS, families and individuals who have worked so hard to make this essential new service a reality, especially in times of austerity. I also want to thank the police who have had to respond as best they can to people in real distress and urgent need of medical care. I look forward to seeing the facilities being used in full and fewer, if any, people detained under the Mental Health Act ending up in police custody."

For Stray FM journalist Ailsa Rochester, this story has a very personal connection.

Hear her report:

Stray FM's Lisa North has been along to find out how the new unit at Harrogate District Hospital will make a difference: