Norfolk police have seen a dramatic increase in mental health-related callouts during the latest 12-month period.

Paul Sanford, Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary, said it was "a concern" to see so much resource being invested in responding to mental health issues.

In 2020/21, the force went to 91 section 135 incidents across the county, which refers to s135 of the Mental Health Act.

This gives officers the power to enter a person’s home and take them to a place of safety so an assessment can be carried out.

That represents a 65pc rise, up from 55 instances in 2019/20.

Officers also responded to 632 section 136 incidents in the latest year, where police have the power to take people to or keep them in a place of safety.

In 2019/20 there were 501 - or 20pc less.

Mr Sanford stressed that dealing with callouts surrounding mental health was "nothing new", but said the impact of Covid-19 had been "significant".

He added: “Sadly, the trend of rising incidents in which mental health is a factor is nothing new in policing and something we experienced pre-pandemic.

"The impact of lockdown has clearly had a significant impact on people’s mental health, and we suspect it is a large factor for increases at a time when most recorded crime has reduced."

Over the past year, the constabulary recorded 126 Mental Health Act assessments carried out in custody, up by 25pc.

Officers were called to a total of 11,575 mental health-related incidents - 715 more than last year.

Norfolk police has a jointly-funded mental health advice team based in its control room, which assists with urgent calls when requested by officers.

However, Mr Sanford emphasised the need to take the strain off first responders.

“It is a concern that policing needs to invest so much resource into responding to mental health issues," he added.

"By the time police get involved, something has gone wrong elsewhere.

"We strongly believe earlier intervention by mental health professionals would be in the best interests of all agencies and, most importantly, those suffering from mental health issues.”

But he added: "The fundamental role of the police is to keep members of the public safe and protect them from harm. This is our primary aim.

"Our officers strive every day to protect the vulnerable, often in difficult and complex situations."