Police are taking nearly 250 "concern for well-being" calls every day as they handle a tide of dementia and mental health issues.

The national force has been warning for some years that it spends four times as much time on vulnerable people than on crime.

The latest figures showed it took 82,000 calls related to mental health issues from April last year to the end of February. These numbers were released after senior officers used The Herald's Grey Matters series on an ageing population to explain how they are recalibrating the force to cope with a dementia timebomb.

Last week we revealed that missing persons officers were looking at keeping a data base of the habits and history of elderly people with dementia and other vulnerable people, including the mentally ill.

Police Scotland has now become the first force in the UK to introduce mandatory training for officers to deal with suicide attempts and vulnerable missing persons.

Officers have been trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of distress and how best to intervene.

Some 17,000 officers have been trained in techniques devised with NHS Health Scotland including how to recognise the indicators that someone is contemplating suicide and techniques to help "de-escalate" a situation.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams of the west division, said: "Police officers can't make an accurate assessment of whether someone is in mental health crisis but the training will allow them to recognise symptoms at the first point of contact and assist with what to do in the immediate situation such as taking them to hospital or immediate psychiatric referral.

"The demands on policing are going to change over the next decade.

"There will be an ageing population with more people suffering mental health issues and more people with dementia.

"We know that one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue and as a result, many will come to the attention of the police for a number of reasons - if they are distressed, missing or family have phoned with concern for their wellbeing.

"The police have a vulnerable persons database and the most common marker is mental health. We record around 157 mental health entries daily after attending incidents.

"We have a large number of 'concern for wellbeing' calls to the police, more than 82,000 were recorded from April 2016 to the end of February, this year.

"There are challenges facing the police in terms of budget, in terms of the shifts in demand to deal with people who are vulnerable and not necessarily anything to do with crime and there are changes to the way that crimes are being committed, such as cyber-crime.

"So we need to adapt to ensure we can deliver an effective service.”

A scheme piloted in Glasgow for mental health triage, which offered out-of-hours care to distressed or vulnerable people, has now been rolled out to other divisions.

The scheme involves a telephone consultation between the police officer, individual and a Community Psychiatric Nurse.

More often than not, police say, the phone consultation reduces the need for officers and the individual to attend A&E, and they can remain at home.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley last year said: "Dementia is a very significant issue. If you talk to police and they will frequently bring up this issue, one that absorbs a lot of their time. I think we have a legitimate role.

“We have the ability to find people. But there is a broader challenge of supporting an ageing population and we should ask if we are doing other people’s jobs.”