Street Triage

Mental Health Triage is an ongoing initiative where police and mental health services work together to ensure people who present to police with a mental health crisis receive the most appropriate pathway to care.

Thames Valley Police works in partnership with the three mental health Trusts across the area; Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Berkshire Health NHS Foundation Trust. Each scheme is funded in different ways via the Clinical Commissioning Groups for the Trust.

Police officers are often the emergency service that is requested to attend by a person in mental crisis or their family when they cannot gain access to a more suitable health service or else the situation is an emergency and life threatening. However, police are usually ill-equipped and underqualified to deal with such situations in terms of recognising the most appropriate service to support the person. Police will always try and identify the service best qualified and responsible, however, those services are not always available.

The mental health professional working with the police is better qualified to assess what is actually going on for the person and can provide appropriate information about them if they are previously known to mental health services or assist in assessing the risk presented by the person as a result of their illness. This supports the police in making the best decisions they can about the level of support and ultimately restriction that is necessary for the person.

Mental Health Triage schemes are running in every county across the Thames Valley where a police officer and a mental health professional work together to attend incidents. Ultimately this should also reduce the time the person spends being cared for by police which is a better outcome for them as well as the police.

The mental health professional can attend the incident and provide direct face-to-face support. Alternatively they may speak with the person or the police officer on the phone. They can also provide support to the police call handling centers.

Pictured: Andy Heelas, Kathy Smithwhite, Malcom Acaster.

Oxford Street Triage pilot

The street triage project was an initiative that saw police and mental health services work together to ensure people recieved appropriate care when police were called to a person in distress.

The project, run jointly by Thames Valley Police and Oxford Health NHS Foundation, was initially a pilot for 12 months, running from 31 December 2013 to 31 December 2014. The figures are available for its first year of operation and underline what a positive difference the pilot made to people with acute mental health needs.

During the 12 months of the pilot, Street Triage was involved in 1039 incidents involving 796 people. The team conducted 404 triage assessments and gave advice to police in a further 634 incidents. 49 per cent of incidents were encountered in a private place, 34 per cent in a public place and 17 per cent related to requests for information on missing people. Over half the cases involved fear of harm to self as the primary reason for concern.

Highlights of the pilot:

  • Better experience for people experiencing a mental health crisis. Surveys have reported an 88 per cent positive reaction to the way patients were treated and the advice given.
  • Fewer detainees are being released with no further need for Mental Health services suggesting more appropriate use of powers.
  • Better outcomes for people; where pathways have been identified people are remaining in services for longer increasing their rate of recovery.
  • 40 per cent fewer people are being repeatedly detained as patients are receiving support and are directed into care pathways.
  • Section 136 detentions have reduced by 26 per cent in Oxfordshire against the same period last year. 120 Section 136 detentions were avoided following involvement of the street triage team by identifying and arranging more appropriate less restrictive alternatives.
  • 73 per cent fewer S136 detentions in police cells through improved partnership working and mutual understanding of issues and requirements.
  • Savings in police time when dealing with mental health incidents allowing them to resume other duties.
  • Relieving pressure on the Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) service and the demand for s132 doctors by requesting fewer assessments
  • Officers report that street triage allows them to react faster, make more informed risk assessments and hence better decisions. Officers report that they are gaining in confidence when dealing with mental health crises.

Further information

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