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Mental health support pilot expanded to half population

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A scheme that sees mental health nurses work alongside police officers to support people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities while in police custody or court has been expanded to cover around half of England’s population.

The NHS England initiative began its two-year trial in April 2014 and has now more than doubled the number of teams providing the service.

It now offers 26 “liaison and diversion” teams covering around 28.5 million people in England, up from the 10 teams the initiative launched with last year, according to NHS England.

“The results so far have proven how [this service] can dramatically change people’s lives”

Kate Davies

During the first 12 months, the service helped 16,315 adult cases and 2,450 children and young people’s cases access specialist support when in contact with the criminal justice system.

The teams carry out a detailed review of the person’s needs before referring them to support or treatment services, such as local authority alcohol support services, drug services and support, anger management support services or referral for children safeguarding.

NHS England said people helped in the first year of the scheme had shown “significant improvements” in behaviour, reducing their re-offending rates and keeping appointments to services.

Kate Davies, head of health and justice, armed forces and public health at NHS England, said: “This expansion is a big milestone for liaison and diversion services because we are now reaching out to so many people.

“The results from the first wave of 10 show just how in demand these services really are and the results so far have proven how it can dramatically change people’s lives,” she said.

NHS England said the liaison and diversion model would be independently evaluated before possible expansion to cover all of the English population by 2017-18.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It is a move in the right direction to provide increased MH diversion support, but this is an inefficient use of NHS resources. There are existing projects demonstrating the value and low cost of third sector provision of triaging and diversion. Effective diversion requires referral to a range of support, not just to NHS services. Nurses do not have the training or opportunity to develop the extensive networking and knowledge required by the client-needs-driven approach necessary in this context. They are also very expensive and spend a lot of down time waiting in custody suites - nor are they available at peak demand times. It is surely better to keep nurses in NHS locations using the skills they have in providing MH treatments. Bring in specialist providers to undertake the triaging and referral process - much more effective and much lower cost. Remember that the MH nurses working in the justice context are being moved from other areas equally in need of their expertise, this is not 'new' money but a reallocation. Please, look outside the NHS and see how other models work so well at much lower cost, letting the NHS stick to what it does well. Ref: www.cassplus.org

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