Nurses are to join police officers sent to deal with incidents involving mentally-ill offenders under proposals unveiled by the Home Secretary today.
Speaking at the Police Federation of England and Wales' annual conference, Theresa May said one of the biggest blocks to police officers is the time taken up dealing with people with mental health problems.
Among a number of proposals for tackling this problem, she announced plans that would see nurses accompany police officers when it is likely to lead to a person being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
This is already being done in street triage services in Leicestershire, Cleveland and Scarborough and the Government wants to roll it out across the country.
Mrs May said: "Police officers have many skills, but they are not in a position to be psychiatrists diagnosing and treating mental illness - nor are you meant to be social workers or ambulance drivers.
"You are thrust into that role because when members of the public have concerns for an individual's safety, they do not know who to call for help - except the police.
"But police officers are not doctors, and it is quite wrong that in more than a third of cases where mentally ill people are detained for their own safety, the place of safety is not a hospital but a police cell."