The innovative mental health pilot under which specialist nurses work alongside officers and staff in the Wiltshire Police control room has won praise from the area’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, which ends on Sunday (22 May), Angus Macpherson visited the Crime and Communications Centre at the Devizes HQ to see the mental health street triage pilot in action.
He met Alex Chesterton, manager of the team, and nurses Trudi Overton and Andy Sibley to find out at first hand the benefit of having medical experts available when police officers are dealing with someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
Mr Chesterton and a four-strong team of nurses have been seconded to the control room from other roles in the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. The service runs from 8.30am to midnight, seven days a week.
Via twin screens, the nurses can read live police incident logs and check NHS databases.
The team can speak directly to police officers at the scene of an incident, liaise with other health agencies and professionals and signpost to other services.
Ms Overton gave the Commissioner an example of how she had been able to assist police who were dealing with an incident involving a man having a mental health crisis.
She said: “I recognised the name of the man on the police log and was able to write into the live log that he had been recently discharged from a mental health care unit.
“I was able to give helpful advice about his condition to officers who were on the spot.
“On another occasion I was able to sort out a crisis admission to a mental health bed for someone police were dealing with.
“I see our role as building a bridge between the police and the health service.”
Mr Macpherson said: “I know from speaking to senior officers that this pilot is considered a great success and I would like to acknowledge the important work the nursing team are doing.
“The nurses can assess the situation and offer really useful advice to police officers on how to support the person they are dealing with.
“The NHS England funding for this 12-month pilot is due to end in September. I will work to review the funding options with the clinical commissioning groups in Wiltshire and Swindon to ensure the enormous benefits to patients we have seen to date are not lost.
“I very much hope that our NHS partners will continue to support the project which is improving the care of vulnerable people in our communities by helping to get them quickly to a safe place.”
In the first six months of the pilot, nurses answered enquiries and assisted in 2,743 episodes, of which 1,114 were in Swindon (41 per cent) and 1,556 (57 per cent) in the rest of the Force area. More than 67 per cent of these episodes involved people who had a current, or previous, contact with mental health services.
Since the start of the pilot the advice from the street triage team has helped to reduce the number of detentions by police under the Mental Health Act (known as Section 136 detentions) by over 12 per cent.
Hospital admission rates following Section 136 detentions, where the Street Triage Team had been consulted, increased from 23.6 per cent to more than 41 per cent, which suggests that Section 136 is being used more appropriately.