Individuals who have suffered mild depression or anxiety, or one-off mental health episodes, have been consistently refused life and other kinds of insurance, adding to their financial insecurity.
Dozens of customers told the Guardian they had been refused cover based on long-distant episodes of depression or if their medical report mentioned suicidal thoughts or self-harm. They said they were denied cover even when they had no physical health complaints.
Charities and campaigners said this was worrying and accused insurers of working from an outdated understanding of mental health. The concern is that insurers are dismissing customers with depression and anxiety to minimise risk and boost profits.
Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have joined a growing number of voices calling for action. The shadow minister for mental health, Barbara Keeley, said:“It is unacceptable for insurers to discriminate flatly against people with mental health conditions or clobber them with higher premiums, particularly for mild conditions or historic episodes … Labour is calling for the government to investigate, as a matter of urgency.”
The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb launched a Commons early day motion, a parliamentary device used to highlight an issue. Lamb said these practices amount to a serious discrimination and urged the government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority to look into it.
“These alleged practices are deeply shocking and, in my view, amount to an outrageous discrimination against people with mental ill health … the government must look into this as a matter of urgency and stamp out any loopholes in the law which are allowing these practices to continue,” he said.
Gaps in legislation mean customers have little protection against this form of prejudice, according to charities. Michael Henson-Webb, head of legal at the mental health charity Mind, said that the current definition of disability under the Equality Act does not cover everyone with a mental health problem, making it “difficult for individuals with mental health problems and their legal advisers to clearly determine their rights”.
The motion launched by Lamb has already been backed by the Labour MP Luciana Berger. She said: “The government has time and again told us how it is committed to equality for mental health. If they are serious they must act now to end this wholly unacceptable and discriminatory practice.”
She added: “It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that insurance companies are obeying both the letter and the spirit of anti-discrimination laws.”
Prof Wendy Burn, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “It is deeply worrying to hear that insurance companies are making sweeping judgments about people without true understanding of their condition.”
The Guardian has also heard allegations from new complainants. Tony Blair’s former director of communications Alastair Campbell, an ambassador for Time to Change, said: “Whenever my partner Fiona and I have engaged with insurance, it is harder and more expensive for me than for her, because I have been open about having had mental illness, something she has not had.”
He added: “People are judged on past mental health problems differently to how they are judged on past physical health problems. It encourages people not to open up, which in turn means the stigma and taboo are reinforced. It is there in black and white in the NHS constitution – there should be parity between physical and mental health. But this scandal is just one more example of how far the reality is from the words in law.”
Dozens of others spoke out on Twitter. One person said: “[The same] happened to me. I was denied [insurance] as I struggled after a divorce and sought help from GP, so it was on my medical records.” Another said: “My husband can’t get life insurance because of his depression … we have six children. I’m just glad if anything happens to me my family is covered. Just disgraceful.”
Helen Undy, the head of external affairs at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year, and by some estimates this rises to almost half of us across a lifetime. So if the insurance market isn’t working for all these people, then it really isn’t working at all.”
A treasury spokesperson said: “It is wrong for people to be refused insurance purely on the basis of a mental health condition. Insurance companies should follow both the best-practice guidelines from the Association of British Insurers, and equality law to ensure that full cover should be offered wherever possible.”
MENTAL health A&E units are urgently needed to provide lifeline treatment during crises, according to a leading MSP.
The centres would provide 24/7 access for people enduring acute depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
Labour MSP Jenny Marra is campaigning for the Scottish Government to green-light the emergency units, and yesterday said: “My surgery is full of families who suffer mental health problems themselves, who have lost loved ones.
“I think there is an acute need now, an urgent need all across Scotland, for mental health accident and emergency services.
“We need to be honest with ourselves that there are probably more people in our communities facing mental health issues than there are broken limbs.
“Given that this is such a big issue in our communities, this is not a situation that can continue.
“We have crisis teams at the moment but we need to look honestly at more accessible provisions round the clock and let people know that there is a place for them to go when they are at crisis point – or way before that to stop that crisis point from ever happening.”
Edinburgh already has a crisis centre operating, where people can text, phone or email for support. It has been credited with saving many lives over the past 11 years. Glasgow also operates an emergency community triage, which works with the police to provide specialist support, but out-of-hours services are in short supply outside of Scotland’s two major cities.
Mental health is increasingly recognised as a major issue for people’s wellbeing, with 728 Scots taking their own lives in 2016.
Scottish charity the Mental Health Foundation already backs implementing a national roll-out of community triage to provide support to people across the country.
And there is cross-party support for the idea at Holyrood.
Last week at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon agreed with Ms Marra’s proposals “broadly speaking”, adding the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy releases extra funding for specialists in places such as police stations and prisons.
The Edinburgh Crisis Centre provides immediate support for people of 16 or older with overwhelming mental health difficulties, such as extreme anxiety or depression, and who may be considering suicide.
Staffed by 13 people, it is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is unique in Scotland in offering quick-access one-to-one and short-stay residential mental health crisis support.
People initially contact the service by email, text or telephone. Centre staff then work with the person to support them through their distress.
A person may be offered a one-to-one session, with meetings set up for the same day. Extended or overnight stays are also available for up to four people at any one time.
Around four people per day contact the centre, in Leith, with numbers up 300% compared to when it opened in August 2006. Binal Lanakhi, who has used the centre on several occasions, says her life has been saved by the service. She added: “They talk to you before things get really bad.”
The mental health of Scottish children in care has not been assessed by the SNP since it came to power, according to campaigners.
It has been 14 years since the last survey was carried out, when the Office for National Statistics found that almost half of looked-after young people had mental health issues.
Who Cares? Scotland called for everyone who is taken into care to be given a mental health assessment within the same time it would take to get a GP appointment.
Duncan Dunlop, the charity’s CEO, said: “We know that care-experienced people face trauma, either before they enter care or through the process of entering care. Many then go without any form of mental health support or can wait over a year to get it.”
The last assessment was in 2004, when the Labour and Lib Dem coalition government at Holyrood examined the welfare of five to 17-year-olds in care.
It found that 45% of those who were assessed had mental health issues.
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said that the government-funded Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice published a research paper on young people in secure care last October.
She added: “The paper presents key messages and calls for action about secure care from care experienced young people.”
But Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “There is an urgent need to carry out more research into the mental health issues surrounding looked-after children.”
She wants GPs to be unable to prescribe anti-depressants to under-18s without the knowledge of their parents.
MSPs have ordered more information on whether children are prescribed anti-depressants as “the first port of call or the last port of call”.
Annette sees this as a turning point in her fight.
She said: “For me this is about the minister for mental health agreeing we have a real problem with teens and treatment and the way we treat children.
“No child should go on a first visit to a GP with depression and leave with any medication without being referred first to someone who deals with mental health.”
She wants the change for her other daughter and for her son and everyone else’s sons and daughters.
Young people contact her with similar problems: “The number of young people who have reached out to me, who I’ve spoken with and helped to get in contact with someone who can help them has helped me too.
“I’ve even had messages from people who said they were going to end their life but once reading my Facebook wall – the stuff I keep public – and watching my videos they say they can’t leave their parents in the pain I’m in.
“It’s bitter sweet – Britney’s story is saving not only her friends who knew her but also people she never knew and for me that’s a positive thing.”
Annette takes comfort in watching Britney’s friends living their lives to the full and never taking for granted what they have.
She wants to talk to as many young people as possible and get them to help each other when they have mental health issues or concerns for each other.
And at the end of the petition she named Britney’s Plea, Annette wants at the very least to see better guidelines for GPs when prescribing medication for young people.
She said: “Hopefully they will agree to bring in place new training for GP’s and I also hope they make it that no child or person is given pills on a first-ever visit to a GP.
“I want them to have to be referred and seen by a mental health professional before any treatment is given.
“If that had been in place with Britney she wouldn’t have been given those pills.”
She wants more discussion of the issues.
“I don’t want this to be the end.
“I want to be out there helping people, taking to them about mental health – about Britney.”
If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations which offer advice and support, click here or you can call for free, at any time, to hear recorded information on 0800 066 066
Insurance firms deny discrimination, with 7/7 victim among those turned down
Insurers have been accused of depriving access to life insurance and other kinds of cover to people with depression and anxiety, even for physical conditions unrelated to their mental health.
People who have suffered even mild mental health conditions or one-off episodes say they have been refused life insurance altogether, aggravating their financial insecurity.
Dozens of complainants have been in touch with the Guardian about the alleged discrimination. Charities and campaigners described the findings as “extremely worrying” and showed that insurers were operating based on an outdated understanding of mental illness.
In some cases, insurers appear to base their refusal on long-distant episodes of depression or anxiety, or when customers admit to having had suicidal thoughts or self-harming noted on their medical records. These customers are then allegedly deemed unsuitable to insure even for circumstances where death is not linked to a mental condition.
One refused applicant was a victim of the 7 July 2005 London bombings who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. She described being turned down as “upsetting” and “worrying”, saying it showed ignorance about mental illness.
“I was never given a specific explanation as to why I had been rejected but I have not got any physical health issues,” said the woman, who did not wish to be identified.
“I can see it from the perspective of the insurance company; they are not going to want to provide cover for mental health related issues to someone who has had mental health problems. But I was surprised to be rejected for any coverage at all, particularly given my otherwise good health,” she added.
Others say they were penalised after attending one or two grief counselling sessions following a family death, leading to rocketing premiums.
Charities warned that gaps in the law mean customers have little protection against this form of prejudice.
“The difficulty is that the only protection available is to people who are disabled under the Equality Act and even then there are certain exemptions for insurance business,” said Michael Henson-Webb, head of legal at mental health charity Mind.
“The current definition of disability under that Act doesn’t cover everyone with a mental health problem and makes it difficult for individuals with mental health problems and their legal advisers to clearly determine their rights.”.
Laura Peters, advice manager at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “What is judged as ‘high risk’ seems to be based on an increasingly outdated understanding of mental illness. This viewpoint is resulting in people … being disproportionately penalised for their condition with eye-watering premiums or flat out rejection. Life and health insurance can be a vital safety net.”
“It feels to me wholly inappropriate and discriminatory. This is something that the government needs to investigate as a matter of urgency. We need to get a fundamental review of these policies,” he said.
The Guardian heard from dozens of people about the matter. Many of them were rejected for life insurance but others had problems getting health or travel insurance. They said the reason for their refusal had not been made clear but many said the only probable cause was their mental health record.
Many believed they were turned down because of having suicidal thoughts or self-harming noted in their medical records, but others said they were told to apply again at a later date due to having had a recent diagnosis.
The suspicion is that insurers are cherry-picking customers to minimise risk and boost the bottom line.
Henson-Webb said: “Some insurers are operating with a total lack of transparency. That so many people seem none the wiser as to why they have been declined insurance means they aren’t being given information about how decisions have been made.
“It looks as though some insurers are making crude assessments such as the ‘three strikes’ rule, which could amount to discrimination.”
One insurance broker, who asked to be anonymous, said: “Some insurers target different markets and like ‘clean lives’. It sounds awful but they are hard-nosed businesses.”
He added: “My wife looked to apply for new cover recently and she had gone to her GP about work-related stress and the insurer automatically increase the premium. How many people go through work related stress? I thought that was ludicrous.”
Another respondent, 27-year-old Cara Lisette from Hampshire, said that she had been denied cover but at the same time her partner who had an eye condition had been accepted with exceptions put in place. “This seems unfair, that he can get cover that excludes his condition but I cannot get the same,” she said.
A lot of those who responded said that discrimination had made them wary of getting further treatment.
Insurers say applications for life insurance go through careful assessment and are evidence based. They say that when dealing with customer’s with mental health problems they ask questions such as how long it has lasted and how it has been treated. They also ask about any time off work or suicide attempts. Insurers acknowledge that in a small number of cases, mental health backgrounds may result in a premium loading or exclusion, or in the most severe cases, a refusal to offer cover.
A spokesman for Royal London said: “Most mental health conditions are mild or self-limiting, and as a result we are able to offer standard rates to more than 90% of customers who inform us of their condition.”
An Aviva spokesperson said: “We take our responsibility to comply with the Equality Act 2010 very seriously. The Act includes special rules that permit insurers to assess customers individually and to offer acceptance terms at the standard rate, at an increased premium or to refuse to offer cover based upon each individual applicant’s risk.
“We do not refuse to offer cover or offer cover on different terms to people with a disability, unless there is statistical evidence the condition presents a higher risk than for someone who does not have a history of the condition.”
“Deep concern” has been expressed over a 10% drop in acute mental health beds across Tayside over the past five years.
The number of beds for men and women dropped from 99 in 2013 to 90 last year.
Health chiefs said the reduction was due to a reconfiguration in Perth and the interim relocation of the Mulberry Unit in Angus to the Carseview Centre and insisted most patients were now treated in the community.
However, Angus MP Kirstene Hair is seeking a reassurance from NHS Tayside that the numbers will not fall any further.
She said a total of 44 beds were likely to be relocated from Murray Royal Hospital and the Mulberry Unit at Stracathro in Angus as part of a shake-up of mental health care, while a similar number will be set up in Dundee at Ninewells Hospital.
But she added: “This research finds that the number of beds for a growing problem is reducing anyway – which is of deep concern.
“There needs to be a reassurance from NHS Tayside this number will not shrink any more.”
Conservative MP Ms Hair said she was also concerned that there are no eating disorder beds locally, meaning people are still having to go to Aberdeen for specialist treatment.
“It’s my concern and that of many of my Angus constituents that local health services are disappearing in the background,” she added.
“It is only huge change, such as ward closures, which makes people sit up and take notice.”
Closure of the Mulberry ward at Stracathro Hospital has been identified as the preferred option in a programme to address what officials have described as an unsustainable model for mental health care across the region.
Perth and Kinross integration joint board will have the final say on the package next week.
The move is likely to mean the axe for the Angus unit while general adult psychiatry acute care will be provided from four wards at Dundee’s Carseview Centre, along with learning disability inpatient services from three wards at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth.
Chief officer for Perth and Kinross health and social care partnership Robert Packham said only around 6% of people who access mental health services each year need hospital care.”
He acknowledged there had been a small reduction in the number of acute general adult psychiatry beds in the last five years, adding: “This is due to the reconfiguration of Moredun Ward at Murray Royal into separate male and female environments, and the interim relocation of the Mulberry Unit to the Carseview Centre.
“We have also been redesigning services to adapt to the changing needs of our populations and new services have been introduced to manage people in crisis and support people to remain at home,” said Mr Packham.
“Our communities would expect treatment to be available to them and their families when it is required and we remain committed to ensuring our patients can access the best treatment in the most appropriate place.”
Many more school staff need to be trained to help pupils with their mental health problems, according to a leading charity.
A survey by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) suggested two-thirds of teachers felt ill-equipped.
SAMH chief executive Billy Watson called on the Scottish government to create a programme this year to train all school staff in mental health.
Ministers are carrying out an audit of school-based counselling.
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “Every child and young person should have access to emotional and mental well-being support in school.”
Mr Watson said teachers had shown an “appetite for engagement”.
SAMH conducted an online survey between August and September last year, to which more than 3,000 school staff responded, including teachers, classroom assistants, janitorial, admin and catering staff.
It said 66% of those who responded did not feel they had received sufficient training in mental health to allow them to carry out their role properly.
Only 12% of teachers who responded felt they had adequate training in mental health.
Just 1% of respondents recalled doing detailed work on mental health when they were student teachers.
A third said their school had an effective way of responding to pupils experiencing mental health problems.
Mr Watson said the volume and the pace of the responses from school staff to the survey was “quite remarkable”.
He said: “It tells us this is a really hot topic in schools and we can really make some difference in terms of the training that is available for all schools-based staff for the sake of our young people’s mental health.”
The charity chief claimed three children in every classroom experience a mental health issue before the age of 16 but often struggle to get the help they need.
He said this could affect their lives as adults.
There is currently no national strategy for how schools should deal with mental health.
The Scottish government said it had started a national review of personal and social Education – including consideration of the role of guidance and counselling in schools.
Mr Watson said the Scottish government was “well-intentioned” but he would like to see the action for training teachers in schools “accelerated”.
The charity would also like to see counselling services across all Scotland’s secondary schools by 2020.
Mental Health Minister Ms Watt added: “Education authorities and all those working in our schools have a responsibility to support and develop the mental well-being of pupils, with decisions on how to provide that support taken on the basis of local circumstances and needs.
“Some will provide access to school based counselling. Others will be supported by pastoral care staff and liaise with the Educational Psychological Services, family and health services for specialist support when required.”
Mental health first-aiders
Scott Pennock, the head teacher at Wallace High School in Stirling, said his school had focused on mental and emotional health – training more than a dozen staff to be mental health first aiders and involving pupils as mental health champions.
He said: “It is really important that the culture within the school is one of wanting to talk about mental and emotional health and being more open about it so we can identify issues and address them.”
The head teacher said his staff had embraced the training and did not find it an extra burden on top of their busy workload.
“All good teachers view pastoral care for pupils as the first part of their job,” he said.
“Teachers understand that if they are supporting young people in their mental and emotional wellbeing then that is helping them to learn and to achieve.
“To me, mental health is at the core of the teacher’s job and the core of their duties. It is not something you add on to it. I think our teachers genuinely see that and support it.”
Pamela Steel, a PE teacher at the school as well as lead teacher for mental health, said she was driving the project with “passion”.
She said: “Mental health first aiders are not trained as counsellors and we are not medically trained but we are there to support someone who is close to crisis or somebody who is just worried about how they are feeling.
“We can give them information or refer them to their GP or, most importantly, just give them time to talk about how they are feeling.”
The First Minister has backed a call for an emergency mental health unit providing round-the-clock care in Dundee.
Scottish Labour’s Jenny Marra said the dedicated A&E unit is vital in the wake of the revelation from Tayside’s most senior police officer that mental health is the force’s “greatest challenge” in the city.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Marra said: “Does the FM agree with me that the time has now come for a mental health accident and emergency facility open seven days a week, over the weekend, with access to specialist nurses, doctors and counsellors?
“(And) for this kind of facility to open in Dundee and in other places across Scotland that desperately need it?”
Nicola Sturgeon immediately threw her support behind Ms Marra’s proposal at Holyrood’s weekly showpiece.
“Yes I do agree,” the SNP leader replied.
“Indeed one of the factors behind the future strategy for policing in Scotland is about the changing nature of demand.
“Certainly when I speak to senior police officers they often mental health and the additional demands that they put on police.”
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy releases extra funding for mental health workers in places such as police stations and prisons.
Earlier this month, Tayside’s divisional commander Ch Supt Paul Anderson said new ways must be found to help police with the “huge” level of mental health demand in Dundee.
Speaking after FMQs, Ms Marra said: “The present system of mental health crisis care is simply not enough.
“People are not getting the immediate care they require especially over the weekends.
“The police have said that it is the biggest challenge facing officers here in Dundee.
“I hear stories time and time again of police seeking care for people and being turned away.
“It’s time that Dundee had a mental health A&E so that those in the most desperate need of care can present themselves, be assessed and given help, care and assistance.
“I’m pleased the First Minister agreed with my call, I will now be making sure that she fulfils her promise.”
A LONG-term homeless man has revealed that he came close to suicide because of his desperate financial plight.
He blames a vicious spiral of not being able to afford an Inverness property and his intense anxiety for not being able to work.
Merseyside-born Allan Woodward (31) moved to the Highland capital about three years ago to be closer to his young son after a break-up with his partner.
After a brief spell sleeping rough, he has since lived in temporary accommodation including several months under Moray Council’s wing in Forres.
Mr Woodward’s life-threatening drama ended with a court conviction for possessing a knife in a public place.
“The knife wasn’t aimed at anybody else, it was aimed at my throat,” he said.
A tragedy was avoided because, in desperation, he called the police himself.
“I contacted them before I actually went onto the roof of the Rose Street car park,” he said.
Mr Woodward claimed the council had acknowledged that his 150 ‘points’ – graded under a system of personal circumstances including the period of homelessness – is unprecedented.
But his persistence in trying to find an affordable Inverness home has proved fruitless and he claims being English has not helped his cause. The council has insisted no-one is discriminated against.
“I just want to be housed,” he said. “So, okay, living in rented accommodation I’ve got a roof over my head but I suffer from mental health difficulties and it doesn’t help my anxiety.
“I’ve known people who’ve been housed a lot quicker than me.
“I’ve been a homeless neighbour to two men who’ve been housed before me – and they had less points than me.
“The council are very flippant. They continually assure me that I’m top of the list but they’ve been doing so for the last six months.”
His plight surfaced almost a year ago after it emerged that 900 homes were standing empty in the city while nearly 1000 people were registered as living in temporary accommodation.
Mr Woodward said at the time that he could not afford to work because his supported temporary accommodation – funded by housing benefit – costs hundreds of pounds per week and private lets are too costly.
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said anyone making contact with concerns about their security of tenure, or potential or actual homelessness will be treated with respect and in confidence. She therefore declined to comment on an individual case.
Kilmarnock striker has launched The Kris Boyd Charity, which will offer a range of services to help tackle mental health problems.Kris Boyd is pictured at the launch of his charity
Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd hopes to honour the memory of his late brother Scott by encouraging more people to open up about their mental health issues.
The former Scotland international and his family were struck by tragedy in September 2016 when his younger sibling took his own life at the age of 27.
But Boyd has now decided to set up his own charity in the hope he can help others suffering with mental health problems.
The 34-year-old has teamed up with life coach Donald MacNaughton to form The Kris Boyd Charity, which will offer a range of services to help tackle the problem.
The subject is close to his heart but Boyd believes more people will be able to deal with their issues if they feel able to talk about them.
“In the world of football you always see it,” said the ex-Rangers striker. “There’s a lot of kids out there whose dream doesn’t really work out and you can see them struggling once they leave football. But this is a big problem everywhere – not just in football.
“So it’s always been something that has been in the back of my mind.
“Then when what happened with my little brother – which was obviously a big shock and is still raw – it made me decide to try to raise awareness about this issue and make people understand themselves basically.
“The stigma is there in every day life. It can be a male thing in Scotland to act the tough man and just get on as if nothing has happened. But the reality is if people open up and speak it can help everyone.
“I started talking to Donald and realised there was an opportunity for me to go and tackle something that inside football I felt was a big problem.
“After what happened with Scott and even just being a father and a husband, I realised that life isn’t plain sailing. There are ups and downs.
“Social media can play a part. When you look online everyone else’s life looks rosy. You have people posting pictures of themselves out for a steak dinner or having lobster. But what they don’t post is the toast and beans they had the night before. But if you’re looking at everyone having a great time, it’s easy to ask, “Why aren’t I?”.
“So being able to understand that is the big thing. Being able to understand you’ll have good days and bad but that you can also come out the other side of it. And really understanding yourself gives you the best chance to do that.
“We still don’t know why my brother did what he did but if we can help others to understand themselves, hopefully they won’t get to that stage. If we’re able to help one person then it’ll be a success.”
He said: “We are currently undertaking research looking at what methods are used elsewhere to stop this happening.
“We are aware other cities have adopted methods that have been successful and we are currently monitoring those.”
Mr Hunter said that in the meantime there are CCTV cameras at locations along the bridge which are monitored 24 hours a day.
Mr Hunter said: “There are trained people who monitor these cameras.
“They are obviously looking out for road traffic incidents, but they are all also trained to be on the lookout for anyone walking along the bridge who may give cause for concern.
“They work closely with the police who are contacted immediately and get involved straight away.”
Mr Hunter said both the board and the local authority are also keen to be proactive in helping people who may have depression or other mental health issues, and engage with them before they consider ending their lives.
Cities around the world have explored various ways to prevent deaths at locations such as bridges and train stations.
Last year officials in San Francisco installed a net beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, while in Ann Arbor, Michigan, steel fences are being installed on top of multi-storey car parks. And, in 2015, Network Rail bosses announced that following a record number of rail suicides in 2013, they were installing blue LED lights at some train stations.
This initiative has proved successful in Japan, where it is thought the coloured lights create a sense of peace and calm.
A spokesman for the Broughty Ferry lifeboat said crews have been called out 19 times to assist police with concerns for someone on or around the bridge in the past year.
The spokesman said: “The majority of our call-outs in the past year have been to deal with concern for someone at the bridge.”
He said that on some occasions they have remained on standby, but have also been called upon to remove someone from the water.