WM Police’s mental health care commitment underlined as ‘triage’ scheme expands into Black Country
|A mental health scheme proven to dramatically cut the number of people needing to be detained under the Mental Health Act − and save countless police hours − has been expanded into the Black Country.The initiative sees police officers crewed with psychiatric nurses and paramedics on a dedicated response vehicle to answer calls involving people believed to be experiencing mental ill health.It provides on-the-spot assessments − often on the street or in private property − and ensures patients are taken to safe health facilities rather than held in police custody.
The initiative started in January as a pilot project covering Birmingham and Solihull but after being rolled out in Coventry earlier this month, and into the Black Country from Nov 12, coverage now spans the entire West Midlands region.
Chief Inspector Sean Russell, who’s overseen the triage scheme, said the move underlines West Midlands Police’s commitment to deal swiftly and sensitively with mental health patients.
He said: “The initiative has been hugely successful primarily because it means medical experts, rather than police officers, are on hand to carry out assessments on individuals at the scene.
“It’s resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of people deemed necessary to detain under the Mental Health Act, whilst those judged to be in need of help are now being taken to safe health facilities instead of police cells.”
The triage team has dealt with more than 2,100 people since the start of the year with only 263 being detained under the Mental Health − that’s down from 563 over the same period in 2013, a reduction of more than 50 per cent.
And of those detained only five were taken to police stations − one of the lowest numbers for any UK police force − with the rest taken to preferred safe health facilities.
The Black Country arm of the service will operate out of Bilston police station from 10am till 2am every day of the week, with patients being taken to one of four safe mental health facilities in the Black Country.
Chief Insp Russell added: “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.”
Psychiatric nurses are not only able to provide rapid assessments at the scene but also access patient records to determine if people are on medication or have previously experienced mental health issues.
The mental health crisis car is jointly funded by Black Country NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Dudley, Sandwell and West Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
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.”
And Nick Henry, West Midlands Ambulance Service General Manager in the Black Country, 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 patient’s experience in their hour of need. The new team has been very enthusiastic in getting the scheme started and I know they bring great experience with them for the benefit of the patients.”