Nurses and paramedics work together to reduce mental health hospital admissions

Mental health nurses and paramedics are to work together across London in a bid to reduce mental health related hospital admissions.

People in London experiencing a mental health crisis will be visited by a specialist nurse and paramedics in a blue-light car with a view to reducing mental health hospital admissions from 58,000 per year to 30,000 once it is rolled out across the capital.

Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health at NHS England, 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.”

Under the London Ambulance Service scheme, 999 call handlers will work alongside a mental health nurse in the control room to decide whether to dispatch the mental health car after a mental health emergency call is made.

The nurse and paramedic aim to treat patients at home, which is often a better environment for people experiencing mental health problems. At the scene, both clinicians will assess the patient, with the nurse able to assess mental health and provide brief psychological interventions and the paramedic able to assess their physical needs.

Once the mental health nurse and paramedic have arrived at the scene and assessed the patient, they can encourage them 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. However, 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 which is an area with one of the highest rates of patients taken to hospital because of mental health problems.

Mental Health Lead at London Ambulance Service, Carly Lynch 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.”

Across the NHS, 14 Integrated Care Systems (ICS) and many Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are seeing NHS and local government join forces to pool resources and budgets and simplify systems for the patient across primary and secondary care. Schemes like the mental health car will be piloted in one STP and then, following a formal evaluation, rolled out across the wider London STPs.

Chief Quality Officer at London Ambulance Service, Trisha Bain, said: “We have now launched our five year strategy aiming to help us improve the speed and quality of care we provide to our patients. Our new mental health scheme is one of several pioneering services we are introducing dedicated to providing specialist care, improving patient experience and preventing unnecessary hospital admissions.”

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