Ambulance chiefs speed up treatment for mental health patients
Simplified system introduced for England and Wales
People experiencing mental health problems should benefit from a new system aimed at speeding up the process of getting to to see the right clinicial professional
The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) has played a key role in the development of the latest national arrangements.
Twenty-six organisations have been involved in the drafting of the agreement that describes the shared vision for improving care for people in mental health crisis.
As a first step The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) has developed a national NHS Ambulance Service protocol for the management of patients experiencing mental health problems.
Section 136 of the Mental Health Act outlines the powers the police have if they believe that someone is suffering from a mental illness and is in need of immediate treatment or care.
The police have the authority to take a person from a public place to a 'place of safety', either for their own protection or for the protection of others, so that their immediate needs can be properly assessed by a clinician
The new system simplifies the way the police, mental health professionals and ambulance services communicate with each other when dealing with patients in this type of situation.
It should mean ambulance staff will be able to make an early assessment of their condition and to make quicker, better decisions about their care and transportation needs.
The new protocol - drafted by the NHS Ambulance Mental Health Leads Group - outlines how NHS ambulance trusts will aim to respond to Section 136 incidents within 30 minutes to conduct an initial clinical assessment and to arrange transport to a place of safety or emergency department.
It also outlines how patients who are being actively restrained will receive an immediate, high priority response whilst red flag criteria have been identified as triggers for conditions requiring treatment or assessment in an emergency room. The protocol will be implemented from 1st April 2014.
AACE Managing Director Martin Flaherty OBE says: "Ambulance Trusts adopting a wider role in the field of mental health could deliver real improvements in patient care - an approach that is entirely consistent with the emerging findings of Sir Bruce Keogh's review of urgent and emergency care.
"AACE has had significant input into this new Concordat and we now look forward to working with the Department of Health, commissioners and other agencies to turn the aspirations of the Concordat into real improvements for patients."
The new agreement is built around four key principles: Access to support before crisis point; Urgent and emergency access to crisis care; Quality of treatment and care when in crisis; Recovery and staying well/preventing future crises.
Other key themes within the document include achieving parity of esteem for patients in mental health crisis (putting mental health on a par with physical health); improving commissioning arrangements to achieve "a shared local understanding of the mental health need; delivering a whole system approach with detailed coordination arrangements in place between all the agencies that are regularly contacted by people in mental distress; the removal of intoxication as a reason for exclusion from places of safety and stopping inappropriate use of police, police cells and police vehicles.
Notes to editors
The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) provides ambulance services with a central organisation that supports, coordinates and implements nationally agreed policy. It also provides the general public and other stakeholders with a central resource of information about NHS ambulance services. read more…The primary focus of the AACE is the ongoing development of the English ambulance service and the improvement of patient care. More information about the AACE is available at www.aace.org.uk. High (and low) resolution versions of the AACE logo are available upon request.
 These vulnerable people are often referred to as 'Section 136 patients' by the emergency services due to Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, which outlines the powers the Police have if they believe that someone is suffering from a mental illness and is in need of immediate treatment or care. This gives the Police authority to take a person from a public place to a 'Place of Safety', either for their own protection or for the protection of others, so that their immediate needs can be properly assessed by a clinician. (A Place of Safety could be a hospital, police station or some other designated place).