The £10m will enable mental health professionals to be placed in ambulance control centres and accompany paramedics on emergencies
“The NHS is helping twice the number of people experiencing a mental health crisis compared to five years ago thanks to the rollout of 24/7 crisis support phone lines with tens of thousands receiving support without having to go to A&E." Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director
NHS England is providing an additional £10m to mental health trusts this winter, to ease pressure on emergency services.
It also plans to allocate dozens of mental health professionals to work in ambulance control centres and accompany paramedics on emergency call-outs to treat people having a mental health crisis at the scene. Guidance for mental health trusts about how this will work will be published later this week.
Figures from two ambulance trusts show that having a mental professional answering, or responding to, 999 calls could reduce the chances of a patient needing to go to A&E from approximately 50% to 20%.
Demand for crisis mental health services has doubled since 2017. More than 90,000 people a month have been referred to community crisis services, while about 200,000 people a month have also called 24/7 crisis lines. Less than 2% of people who call 24/7 mental health crisis lines then attend A&E for further support.
Claire Murdoch, the NHS’s mental health director, said: “Getting support to people suffering a mental health crisis quickly is critical and will be even more important over the coming months when the NHS is facing a perfect storm with winter virus cases rapidly increasing alongside ongoing pressures in emergency care.
“The NHS is helping twice the number of people experiencing a mental health crisis compared to five years ago thanks to the rollout of 24/7 crisis support phone lines with tens of thousands receiving support without having to go to A&E.
“The NHS has been planning more extensively for its most challenging winter yet including having trained mental health professionals answering 999 calls and heading to the scene with paramedics to offer treatment at home.”
The NHS is also planning to roll out around 100 specialist mental health ambulances across the country over the next three years. Two ambulance services – East of England and Yorkshire – already have these dedicated vehicles on the road. In the East of England, the vehicle has reduced avoidable A&E attendance by 10%. The paramedic and mental health nurse work in partnership with the police to ensure people receive the right care.
Sophie Corlett, Interim CEO of the mental health charity Mind, welcomed NHS England’s plans: “This winter is likely to be incredibly challenging for the mental health of millions of people across the country, so it’s great to see NHS England looking to address the huge pressures A&Es are already under as winter sets in.
“When people are in mental health crisis, they need care and support there and then. Supporting our NHS to reduce those pressures by giving people immediate access to a mental health professional either in person or over the phone will help many people to more quickly access the type of care most appropriate for them.”
Rates of mental ill health are already soaring, and this winter is likely to be very difficult for many, particularly given the rising cost of living. This targeted investment from NHS England is very welcome, focused as it is on early intervention from mental health professionals to reduce people arriving at A&E in crisis.