Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Round the clock emergency mental health support

A new service launched in London today to help the thousands of people with mental health problems who come into contact with the capital’s front line police officers every year.

Under the Mental Health Police Triage Service for London scheme, police officers have access to 24 hour telephone support from mental health professionals to help them make decisions about vulnerable people. The aim is to improve the overall experience of people in mental health crisis and reduce unnecessary police involvement. It is hoped it will also improve the use of section 136; a police power under the mental health act to take a person to a place of safety.

NHS England (London), the Mayor’s Office of Police for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), the Metropolitan Police Service, and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) are working together to pilot the service.

It was developed in response to a number of concerns around policing and mental health that culminated in Lord Victor Adebowale’s Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, which highlighted the negative experiences of many mentally ill people in the justice system.

The service is being delivered by SLaM and piloted in Lambeth, Lewisham, Croydon and Southwark.

SLaM Chief Executive, Dr Matthew Patrick said: “It is the first time that police in our boroughs have had direct and rapid access to mental health professionals who are able to respond immediately and offer advice.

“Rather than removing patients from the street (Section 136) unnecessarily, nurses can advise police on other options such as direct referral to our community mental health teams - where patients are already known to SLaM services - or attending A&E where it appears the person’s presentation requires physical health assessment. Although it is early days, we can see that the pilot has had a direct effect on reducing the number of people being detained under Section 136 and is providing patients with better access to the care they need as quickly as possible.”

SLaM service user, Scott Hillier said: “I think this new scheme is a fantastic idea. I have bipolar disorder and when I am in crisis I have had episodes that have involved contact with the police. The police have done what they can but obviously they are not mental health professionals so sometimes I would have to wait in a cell until the appropriate care professional was contacted.

“This is a great way of reaching out to people on the street, at times of crisis and when they are most in need. It is something that I think a lot of people with mental health problems will really benefit from.”

For an interview with Scott click here 

London bus by E01 used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original

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