Emergency mental health hospital admissions in London are expected to be cut in half thanks to a new “pioneering” ambulance scheme involving nurses and paramedics working side-by-side.
The initiative will first be launched in south-east London and will see people experiencing a mental health crisis being sent a specialist nurse and a paramedic in a car on blue lights.
Once rolled out across the capital, the new team is expected to reduce mental health hospital admissions by 48% from 58,000 to 30,000 per year by giving people the help they need in the community.
Claire Murdoch, national clinical director for mental mealth at NHS England, praised the scheme by the London Ambulance Service.
She said: “As we develop a long-term plan for the NHS, it’s imperative we focus on bringing together health and social care professionals, providing a tailored service for patients and making the most of every penny.
“The London ambulance mental health nurse and paramedic pioneer scheme is an excellent example of how patients can get more appropriate care closer to home and avoid unnecessary trips to hospital,” she added.
When a mental health related 999 call comes in, the call handlers will work alongside a mental health nurse in the control room to decide whether to dispatch the mental health car.
At the scene, the nurse will assess the patient’s mental health and provide brief psychological interventions while the paramedic will monitor their physical needs.
They will then either encourage the patient to make a GP appointment, refer them to their mental health team, or call an ambulance if they think they need to go to hospital.
During the shifts to test the concept, no patients were taken to hospital at all.
The car will operate seven days a week initially covering boroughs across south east London – an area with one of the highest rates of patients taken to hospital because of mental health problems.
Carly Lynch, mental health lead at London Ambulance Service, said: “Emergency departments are not always the right place for someone experiencing a mental health crisis, and can often be traumatising for these patients, directing them to alternative care is often a better and more appropriate option for them.”
Many police forces across the country have also adopted a similar scheme in which officers and nurses are dispatched in cars to calls involving mental health crises.