HMICS Thematic review of policing Mental Health in Scotland

18 October 2023

The aim of this review was to assess the state, efficiency and effectiveness of Police Scotland’s provision of mental health-related policing services.  Our review considered the following five objectives:


■ How well-prepared Police Scotland is to meet the needs of people experiencing poor mental health

■ Whether the police response to mental health-related demand affects the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation in delivering other policing services

■ Whether the organisation understands the demand associated with the provision of mental health-related policing services

■ The effectiveness of the force’s collaborative working arrangements on the provision of mental health-related policing services

■ The impact that the involvement of the police has on the person who is experiencing poor mental health.


This report contains 14 recommendations and identifies areas for development to ensure the best possible service and outcomes for those experiencing poor mental health in Scotland.




Scottish Government should commission a strategic review of the whole system relating to mental health, involving a range of scrutiny bodies.


With the support and engagement of the advisory panel, Police Scotland should develop and publish a mental health strategy (and delivery plan) that clearly articulates its purpose and vision in dealing with mental health-related incidents and allows the recommendations and areas for development highlighted in this review to be progressed.


Police Scotland should establish and implement internal governance arrangements to achieve its mental health strategy and delivery plan, once published.


Police Scotland and the SPA should develop, and report on, a performance management framework setting out how it will police mental health in Scotland.


Police Scotland should provide clear guidance and effective training for officers and staff, in line with its mental health strategy, to help address the culture of risk aversion evident in the policing of mental health-related incidents and to improve outcomes for people experiencing poor mental health.


Police Scotland should engage with partner agencies to re-establish collaborative leadership training to help develop leaders across the whole system, in line with the Scottish Government mental health and wellbeing strategy.


Police Scotland should conduct a full training needs analysis for policing mental health, reflecting its published strategy, to include (but not necessarily limited to) all public-facing roles across the service.


Police Scotland should monitor and report on the impact of the use of its powers, under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, on under-represented groups.


Police Scotland should review the use and recording of place of safety orders across the organisation to achieve consistency of approach and ensure that reporting of this is included in performance reports to the SPA.


Police Scotland and the SPA should take steps to establish a clear demand picture for policing mental health.


Police Scotland should, in conjunction with relevant partner organisations, review all Psychiatric Emergency Plans across Scotland and ensure that the police role in dealing with mental health is appropriate, supportive, patient-centred and aligned to Police Scotland’s mental health strategy, once established.


Police Scotland should ensure consistency of approach across all local policing divisional senior management teams on the oversight of local Psychiatric Emergency Plans.


Police Scotland should take steps to provide ready access to, and encourage the use of, its interim Vulnerable Persons Database by British Transport Police colleagues in Scotland.


Police Scotland and the SPA should put in place measures to monitor progress on the development and implementation of the mental health strategy and the recommendations and areas for development outlined in this review, including recommendations from the VOX lived experience report.

Publication type: 
Inspection report