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A PILOT project to cut the numbers of mental health sufferers being locked up in police cells is seeing dramatic results, council chiefs have heard.

As reported by the Daily Echo earlier this year, Hampshire police launched Operation Serenity in a bid to curb the numbers of ill people languishing in cells before they could be assessed and referred to get the right help.

The three-month pilot scheme, championed by Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes, saw mental health workers from Southern Health travel with officers in patrol cars so together they could be best placed to deal with a situation.

Now councillors responsible for health and adult social care in Hampshire have produced a report praising the operation and its success in keeping people suffering a mental health crisis out of the cells.

Totton South and Marchwood councillor David Harrison told how it can often be tough for officers to determine if they are dealing with someone with anxiety, stress or who is intoxicated through drink or drugs, as opposed to a serious mental illness, but they were getting better at spotting the tell-tale signs.

He told the committee: “Police officers are now better trained to deal with people who they might think are suffering from a mental illness.

“It’s very helpful for someone to have someone who is experienced in the field of mental health to give advice to the police officer on the spot and I think Operation Serenity as seen as being really successful in that regard.”

Results showed that out of 26 calls outs with a nurse travelling in a car, 80 per cent of people responded well to advice and no further action was needed while 20 per cent were visited and assessed and sent to hospital.