Press releases

Mental health nurses hit the streets

A Nottinghamshire-wide partnership of NHS organisations, police and local authorities in the City and County is launching a ‘street triage’ scheme to help those with mental health issues or learning disabilities in Nottinghamshire receive the right care and treatment in emergency situations.

Nottinghamshire Police have hundreds of contacts a year with individuals who are in distress or in vulnerable situations because of mental health problems or learning disabilities.

This new scheme will see specially trained mental health nurses from Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust join police officers on callouts in unmarked street triage cars throughout Nottinghamshire where vulnerable people need immediate mental health support. The nurses will also be available to give telephone advice to police officers and help them decide on the appropriate healthcare service to refer to.

The objective of the scheme is to improve services for mental health patients and divert vulnerable individuals with mental health issues away from the Criminal Justice System to a more appropriate care setting. Where required, the service can also provide access to community mental health treatment services and learning disability support and care.

Street triage will cut demand on police time and allow officers to focus on crime. It is also hoped that on the spot support from mental health nurses will reduce the number of citizens being arrested or taken to a 136 Suite - which provides a place of safety for vulnerable people requiring a psychiatric assessment - or to A&E by providing more appropriate care for their needs.

Teresa Cope, Director of Quality and Delivery at NHS Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We have commissioned this service to radically improve the way we support those with mental health problems and learning disabilities, especially those who are picked up in public needing help and support rather than policing intervention.”

Linda McCarthy, Chief Inspector of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Police are frequently called to attend incidents where the mental health of one or more individuals involved is an underlying factor. The street triage brings together health care professionals and the police so that at the first point of contact, an assessment can be made and the right action can be taken for the individual concerned.

“This approach is something that the Police and health care professionals are keen to implement because making the right decision at the scene can directly impact upon better quality, long term outcomes for these individuals.”

Professor Mike Cooke CBE, Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire Healthcare, said: “We are delighted to be working with Nottinghamshire Police and our partner agencies to provide this fantastic and innovative service. When the police attend an incident with a vulnerable person requiring support from mental health services, our staff will now be able to assess the person there and then, rather than in a police or health setting. Working together with the police, we will be able to provide advice on the range of options available and ensure that people are referred to the best and most appropriate care and treatment to meet their needs.”

The implementation of the scheme will lead to more timely intervention by mental health professionals and avoid unnecessary detention under mental health legislation, either in a police station or hospital, resulting in a better experience for citizens.

Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping said: “This is a really positive move that will help people with mental health problems and all those tasked with their care. This will help to safeguard people’s dignity and rights by providing localised, effective treatment in an appropriate setting - which I do not believe to be a police cell. This will widen the choices available for sufferers so that the solution is not just a choice of arrest or hospital.

“When you are physically ill, you expect to be treated by a medical professional and the same principle should apply to those with mental health problems. The triage cars will go a long way to helping provide the right service when and where it is needed, while reducing demand on police resources.”

Similar schemes in other parts of the country have seen significant improvements in the quality of service experienced by the public. In Leicester for example, the pilot has seen a 40% reduction in detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Nottingham City, Nottingham North and East, Rushcliffe, Nottingham West, Newark and Sherwood, Mansfield and Ashfield, and Bassetlaw are jointly commissioning the service across the City and County, It has been developed by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Nottinghamshire Police, Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, the Nottinghamshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Published: 2 April 2014