Improving ambulance services for people experiencing mental health issues

August 1, 2016

We were privileged to be asked by London Ambulance Service this year to engage with people who are mental health service users across the City to find out how the ambulance service could be improved for them.

Supported by a range of voluntary and community sector partners, 63 people took part in 7 focus groups. The groups generated feedback from patients, service users and carers as well as London Ambulance Service staff. We were overwhelmed with the generosity of spirit showed by those we spoke to.

Some of our headline findings can be seen below.

Initial contact and response

  • Where possible call handlers should give an accurate description of what time help will arrive. Introducing the use of regular text or call updates to let people know when help will arrive would provide reassurance
  • All call handlers should receive training in basic mental health as part of their induction and orientation

Education and training

  • To enhance existing training in mental health it would be beneficial if all patient facing staff could receive yearly face to face updates or ongoing mental health training in addition to their core mental health training.
  • Additional personal development would help to build an internal cohort of champions with knowledge and skills to be shared

Crisis prevention

  • Collaborative work with CCGs and other partners to ensure the impact of crisis on the whole pathway is being considered

Receiving the right kind of help

  • A collaborative scoping study into developing an intervention such as a community responder service with a mental health specialism
  • Mental health nurse role to be extended further to provide dedicated mental health nurses that could attend with Ambulance
  • Explore use of Patient Specific Protocols in some cases
  • Work with partners to explore consistent use of crisis cards

Being referred to or transported to the right place

  • A range of options in addition to A&E and mental health hospitals would be ideal such as a crisis suite
  • Further roll out of the existing Street Triage schemes to create a London wide service

Providing Feedback

  • Ensure this report is sent to all those who participated
  • Undertake a campaign to explain how people can provide feedback and where it can be sent to
  • Establish a Mental Health Improvement Group, with involvement from patients, service users and staff who have been involved so far to support the implementation of actions agreed as a result of this report

The report was presented to the Board and the findings were fed into their improvement plan. You can see the full report here.


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