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Mental health response vehicles introduced to ‘reduce inappropriate ambulance use’

Dedicated vehicles will be used to respond to mental health crisis calls across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in a bid to reduce ‘inappropriate’ ambulance use.

Two vehicles will be based at Beechdale Ambulance Station in Nottinghamshire and Raynesway Ambulance Station in Derbyshire, and will be staffed by both paramedics and mental health specialists.

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has been working with the NHS Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in both counties to introduce the vehicles and better help people in need of support.

“The aim of the vehicles is to reduce inappropriate ambulance conveyance to Emergency Departments via appropriate signposting and so that patients in mental health crisis can be supported in an appropriate way,” said EMAS chief executive Richard Henderson, who discussed the plans at a board meeting on Tuesday, June 4.

“Our approach provides discreet attendance and enables triage and treatment at home, within the vehicle, and when conveyed to an appropriate place of treatment.”

Five mental health response vehicles were introduced across the West Midlands in December last year.

A similar pilot was also held by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) in Hull, and three vehicles now operate in the region.

YAS says results have been encouraging, with 62 per cent of patients supported by the vehicle at the scene without the need for onward conveyance to hospital.

During the meeting medical director, Nicole Atkinson, said: “Nottingham and Derbyshire decided they wanted to sign up to it and the others didn’t.

“Are we likely to see it in other areas? It is difficult to say.

“It certainly hasn’t been commissioned by the other areas. That said as part of the roll out of the model we will be doing an evaluation and capturing the data to understand the impact and hopefully, because it has been proven to be working in other areas, we might then have the narrative that this is something we want to see elsewhere.”

It comes after the NHS Long Term Plan identified ambulance services as being integral in supporting people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, particularly after the Covid pandemic.

It is also understood police forces have been pulling back from mental health care, EMAS chairwoman, Karen Tomlinson, said.

“There was something, and it is a while ago now and it is in my grey matter somewhere, about the police pulling back on mental health care, so this can only help in terms of mental health,” she said.

The board was informed Derbyshire Police had provided a street triage initiative, whereby police officers were supported by a mental health practitioner. However, the scheme is being replaced by the new response vehicles.

A similar street triage scheme also operated in Nottinghamshire.

The new response scheme will have a “much greater scope” than the street triage initiative, board members were told.

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