The BBC ran the following last Thursday (The whole article can be found here):
A mentally ill, suicidal teenager was ferried around for hours by an ambulance crew because no N[ational Health Service] unit would accept her, the BBC has learnt .
The girl eventually had to be taken to a police cell, documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show.
The case is revealed in a memo sent by one of the paramedics who dealt with the incident, which he described as a “clear system failure on the part of mental health services for children in Ipswich which caused distress and harm to the patient”.
Ahhh, the benefits of a government-run system — 15 year girls suffering acute mental illness wind up in adult jails. Four different government-run facilities either denied her access or were unable to take her. The paramedic crew drove her around for 3 hours until eventually taking her to jail, where she spent 6 hours.
A spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “While in a similar situation it would be the police, rather than the ambulance staff who would need to be aware of the arrangements in place, we can confirm that our operational staff are fully conversant with the action they should take in an incident involving any young people in Suffolk detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.”
Suffolk Police said: “Changes in the Mental Health Act now allow for someone suffering from a mental illness to be transferred from one place of safety to another where it is considered to be in the best interests of the person concerned and with the agreement of those agencies involved in providing the care.
“The time taken to refer someone to the most appropriate health care professional can be affected by a number of issues for example, the degree of intoxication affecting some members of a highly vulnerable group of people or the availability of “out of hours” support from other agencies”.
The ambulance folks blame the police, which seems odd, and the police say that the decision as to where to send someone “can be affected” by “”out of hours” support” (Which I think means “Is there anybody actually working in the facility?”). Furthermore, the legislature now “allows” through the “Mental Health Act” that you can transfer a patient to the best place for that patient as determined by… the Police (at least in this case). And a doctor gets involved exactly when?
Finger-pointing, nobody working, jailing teens, legislation driving medical decisions… That is a great system.