The Met Police's plan to stop attending emergency mental health incidents is "potentially alarming", a former inspector of constabulary has said.
From September, officers will only attend mental health 999 calls where there is an "immediate threat to life".
The Met argues the move will free up officers after a significant rise in the number of mental health incidents being dealt with by the force in the past five years.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley wrote to health and social care services in Greater London to inform them of the plan last week.
In the letter, which has been seen by the BBC, Sir Mark said it takes almost 23 hours on average from the point at which someone is detained under the Mental Health Act until they are handed into medical care.
He writes that his officers are spending more than 10,000 hours a month on "what is principally a health matter", adding that police and other social services are "collectively failing patients" by not ensuring they receive appropriate help, as well as failing Londoners more generally because of the effect on police resources.
However Zoe Billingham, who is now chair of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS mental health trust after 12 years as Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue, warned mental health services are "creaking" and "in some places are so subdued with demand they are not able to meet the requirements of people who need it most".
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she warned there is "simply no other agency to call" other than the police for people in crisis, adding: "There isn't another agency to step in and fill the vacuum."
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Source: BBC News, 29 May 2023