Police officers and mental health professionals in Tameside recognised that people with mental health problems can be unnecessarily detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, due to inadequate access to specialist care and treatment. They wanted to provide swift access to mental health professionals, ensuring that people are diverted away from the criminal justice system and receive specialist mental health care.
The team established a Street Triage scheme in which police officers and paramedics attending an incident have 24/7 access to an advice line staffed by mental health professionals. A specialist mental health nurse attends the incident and coordinates the specialist mental health support required. The service is supported by shared information systems.
The change was piloted using a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle and model for improvement. The model identified a feature to be improved (management of s.136 Mental Health Act 1983 presentations), a change mechanism, criteria for assessment of change and improvement, and a commitment to use the evaluation as a basis for learning and wider implementation. The inclusion of an independent evaluation helped to develop the criteria for change and provided material for reflection and learning.
98% reduction, year on year, in the number of mentally unwell people taken to the police station in 2013-14 compared to the national reduction of 24%
Oldham - a 60% reduction in the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act, after being taken to a Place of Safety under Section 136, between December 2013 and May 2014
Police officers highly value the scheme and say it has significantly reduced police time dealing with mental health related calls
Bury and Rochdale - during November 2014, Street Triage received 176 calls and the Street Triage practitioner deflected care away from A&E departments in 52 cases.