This is a study of one mode of inception into psychiatric care in Birmingham, Mentally disturbed people coming to the attention of the police are referred to a mental welfare officer and assessed by him, usually in a police station. The mental welfare officer may then refer for a psychiatric decision with regard to further management, and the patient is examined by the doctor in the police station.
The annual frequency of use of this referral system was studied from 1962–73 inclusive. It is shown that there was an increase in referral over the years and that such referral from the police became an increasing proportion of new referrals to the Mental Health Department (Social Services Department).
The sample of referrals from the police for 12 months is studied in greater detail (252 cases), surveying social characteristics of individual patients, the relationships between such police intervention and areas of the city, the nature of situation requiring intervention and the management and treatment which these patients received. The referrals were traced from contact with the mental welfare officer to hospital where the case notes of those admitted were studied for details of legal status and mental state on admission, diagnosis, duration of stay and disposal. The effectiveness of this method of entering treatment is discussed and some recommendations are made.