The Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust had run the service from 09:00 to midnight, but it has now been cut to between 08:00 and 16:00.
Hospital staff now have to call out “crisis teams” at other times when they need a patient assessed. The NHS said it was working to recruit more staff.
The psychiatric liaison service ensures that a patient receives a specialist assessment within four hours. Patients are then either safely discharged or referred to onward psychiatric services.
In a leaked email seen by the BBC, the chief operating officer of East Kent Hospitals, Jane Ely, said it did not have enough space to accommodate patients waiting for specialist services.
If there are no such staff or beds available, patients in need of “immediate care and control” are taken into police custody.
Brian Clark, whose daughter regularly uses mental health crisis services in Kent, said she had recently spent 18 hours in a cell.
“It’s not acceptable. The police don’t know who they’re dealing with, and what they’re capable of,” he said.
Ian Pointon, chairman of Kent Police Federation, said it did not have “the capacity to deal with an increase in something that is in reality a matter for the health service”.
The NHS South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group said the shortage of trained mental health clinicians was a national problem.
“The psychiatric liaison service in east Kent is fully funded – and more funding has recently been provided by the NHS, therefore we remain hopeful that suitable, qualified staff will be recruited soon,” Dr Tara Hoshyar said.
The Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust said it would be discussing how the extra funding could be used.
(From BBC website)