Mental health scheme launches in Black Country

Aim to cut police work in emergency cases.

A multi-agency initiative to help mental health patients in crisis has been rolled out across the Black Country this week following the success of a pilot in Birmingham.

The triage scheme, which was launched in Birmingham in January, sees a police officer, paramedic and mental health nurse respond to 999 calls where people need mental health care. Over 2,000 patients have benefitted from the scheme in Birmingham resulting in fewer A&E attendances and detainments under the Mental Health Act by the police.

The Black Country scheme, which launched earlier this week will operate out of Bilston Police Station every day and is jointly funded by Black Country NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Dudley, Sandwell and West Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Nick Henry, Black Country General Manager, said: “This is a great initiative to improve the service response to this patient group, allowing us to work closely with our colleagues and most importantly improve the patients experience in their hour of need. The dedicated team helps to free up ambulance crews to respond to other 999 calls enabling the service to provide the right care, to the right patients at the right time. The scheme is a great success and is an excellent example of how partnership working can make a real difference to patients.

“The team of paramedics who will be working on the car have been very enthusiastic in getting the scheme started and bring a wealth of experience with them which will ultimately benefit patients.”

Chief Inspector Sean Russell, who has overseen the trial, said: “Around 20 per cent of police demand is due to mental health issues. In the past we’ve not worked alongside the ambulance service or mental health providers…and it’s meant too many people ending up in police custody and essentially being criminalised for being unwell. It’s also meant many hours of police time have been wasted.

“This scheme is a cultural shift; we share more information and work closely together. It’s led to marked improvements in the treatment given to members of the public who need our help, a significant cut in the use of police stations as places of safety to almost zero, and a reduction in demand on the police and healthcare system. I’m confident the triage scheme will prove as successful in the Black Country as it’s been in Birmingham and Solihull.”

Dr Avi Suri, Mental Health Lead for Walsall CCG and Local GP, said: “Many mental health patients who call 999 or 111 are taken straight to A&E, which is often not the best place for them. The new crisis car means they will benefit from immediate treatment and support to reach the right service.”