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Public health and upholding the law

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Public Health England and our partners have launched a consensus statement Policing, Health and Social Care: working together to protect and prevent harm to vulnerable people.

We developed it with policing and public health organisations to provide a focus for our joint work, building on earlier discussions about the common ground.


We know people the police have most contact with are likely to be those that colleagues in public health and the NHS consider to be in need of support.

Rebalancing Act, a recent publication from Revolving Doors, sets out the complex links between social deprivation, poor mental and physical health, social isolation, health inequalities and contact with the criminal justice system. This is in terms of being a victim of crime, committing a crime or – in some cases – both.

The consensus statement commits us to using our shared capabilities and resources more effectively to better serve these communities.

Landscape review

To underpin the consensus and inform the development of a work plan, we undertook a landscape review of collaborative working between police and health in England and Wales.

About half of all police forces took part and shared examples of good practice.

Some collaboration is common, such as where a mental health professional works alongside police colleagues in the control room or in a police car to help guide the most appropriate response to incidents where mental health is the primary concern.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are when a child experiences abuse, neglect and dysfunctional home environments and this is another area where we’re already seeing lots of work.

These adverse experiences put children at more risk of developing harmful behaviours including smoking, harmful alcohol use, drug use, risky sexual behaviour, violence and crime.

This in turn is linked to diseases such as diabetes, mental illness, cancer and cardiovascular disease, and ultimately to premature mortality.

Our review highlighted examples of police and health colleagues developing knowledge, skills and support to identify children and families who are at risk and respond to them in an appropriate and effective way at the earliest opportunity.

Making everyone aware of the signs of adverse childhood experience is a key step in reducing harm and prevent them being passed onto the next generation.

Longer term, this approach could lead to resilient individuals and safer, stronger communities.

Our landscape review identifies what the barriers are to doing more and what things are already being done that could be enhanced or adopted more widely.

Overall, the landscape review suggests a shift in focus from reactive policing towards recognition of the impact of vulnerability and prevention. One of the main ways we’re going to do that is by sharing best practice and what works.


Prevention of ill health is a cornerstone of a public health approach and preventing crime is central to the role of the police.

We’re increasingly seeing recognition of how vital it is to intervene earlier to properly address factors such as mental health, drug and alcohol use and trauma in childhood.

One of the aims of the consensus statement is to better understand the evidence for what works in terms of early interventions and to share this widely to support adoption of best practice.

Looking ahead

Policing and public health share a common commitment to preventing harm and improving wellbeing for our communities, with a particular concern for the most vulnerable.

The consensus working group is developing a work plan and we would love to hear your views on how it might develop, and how your own work can contribute - please comment below.

Image: Elliot brown

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