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Policing and street triage

Ian Cummins (School of Nursing Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
David Edmondson (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 8 February 2016




In his recent report, Lord Adebowale (2013) described mental health issues as “core police business”. The recent retrenchment in mental health and wider public services mean that the demands on the police in this area are likely to increase. Mental health triage is a concept that has been adapted from general and mental health nursing for use in a policing context. The overall aim of triage is to ensure more effective health outcomes and the more effective use of resources. The purpose of this paper is to examine the current policy and practice in this area. It then goes on to explore the models of mental health triage that have been developed to try and improve working between mental health services and the police.


The paper outlines the main themes in the research literature regarding mental illness and policing, including a brief overview of section 136 MHA. It then examines recently developed models of triage as applied in these settings.


The models of triage that have been examined here have developed in response to local organisational, demographic and other factors. The approaches have two key features – the improved training for officers and improved liaison with mental health services.

Practical implications

Wider mental health training for officers and improved liaison with community-based services are the key to improving police contacts.

Social implications

The current pressure on mental health services has increased the role that the police have in responding to these sorts of emergencies. This situation is unlikely to change in the short term.


This paper contributes to the wider debate about policing and mental illness. It highlights the fact that section 136 MHA use has tended to dominate debates in this area to the detriment of a broader discussion of the police role.



Cummins, I. and Edmondson, D. (2016), "Policing and street triage", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 40-52.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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