A new scheme aimed at improving the way the emergency services can help people who ring 999 when in a mental health crisis is being trialled in Derbyshire over the next six months.
The pilot started last week and involves paramedics joining the mental health triage hub at Derbyshire Constabulary’s call centre in Ripley.
The hub is made up of mental health nurses and social workers supporting ambulance crews and police officers when they are responding to mental health incidents in Derbyshire by providing additional advice and guidance.
Paramedics, who will have an ambulance on standby at the Ripley call centre, will be able to advise the caller directly, offer immediate medical advice, or head out to help them wherever they are.
Tim Slater, EMAS’ paramedic and general manager for Derbyshire, said one aim of the pilot was to avoid taking people to A&E if they didn’t need to go there.
He said: “Currently, when a patient experiencing a mental health crisis calls 999, they may need to be taken to A&E for further assessment. Being in that busy environment can exacerbate their distress and may not be the right place for that patient.
“Working closely with our colleagues in the police, Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and local authorities will enable us to help that patient access the right support more quickly and get the help they need.
“This can include providing advice over the phone, such as to book a GP or specialist appointment, providing a mental health assessment at their home, or even supporting them to be directly admitted to a mental health ward for treatment.
“By avoiding taking patients in crisis to A&E, we will be doing what is best for the patient, as well as reducing pressure on the hospitals and other parts of the NHS where patients need urgent care.
“We want there to be ‘no wrong door’ for patients experiencing a mental health crisis – so that they can access the help they need whether they contact the ambulance service, police or mental health service.”
The mental health triage hub was set up in 2016.
This new pilot, which lasts for six months, has been funded by Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa.
It is being led by Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and in addition to featuring paramedics and mental health nurses, it also includes specialist social workers.
Mark Powell, chief operating officer at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The mental health triage hub is a very important service, offering support and advice to the police when someone is having a mental health crisis.
“As lead provider for healthcare in the triage hub, the trust is delighted to welcome EMAS to the existing hub for this pilot scheme.
“Partnership working like this is crucial to improve joint decision-making and information-sharing, and our hope is that people in crisis will get the right care and treatment, in the right environment, as rapidly as possible.”
Mr Dhindsa said: “It’s so important that people receive the right help, from the right people at the right time.
"Police officers are not, and nor should they be, medically trained and the mental health triage ensures that our officers can access expert advice to help individuals mental health crisis receive appropriate help more swiftly.
"Being ill is not a crime and people with mental health problems need care, not custody.”