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‘Mental health emergency vehicle’ to be introduced in Dundee to reduce A&E use

Paramedics and police often attend to assist people in a mental health crisis
Paramedics and police often attend to assist people in a mental health crisis

A dedicated mental health emergency vehicle will soon be introduced in Dundee to prevent people in distress ending up in A&E.

Operated by the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership (DHSCP), it would carry a paramedic and a mental health nurse to offer immediate psychiatric help.

A&E is generally viewed as not being the best environment for someone emotionally distressed but is still deemed suitable in some instances.

First for the city

Vicky Irons, chief officer of the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership (DHSCP), says the agreement is a “phenomenal” development.

“I came across this type of service, as many people may have, through some of the media attention there has been with celebrities doing pieces on mental health,” she said.

“I think certainly the vehicle that I saw was part of a documentary recently about the service provided in Nottingham.

“I just think it’s a phenomenal development in terms of that really rapid response.”

She added: “I think this will be a first for us as a city and a really, really important development as part of the wider mental health strategy.”

There is evidence similar initiatives have helped reduce A&E admissions in other parts of the UK.

Usually such projects see a psychiatric nurse give an initial triage assessment before recommending the most appropriate response to emergency services.

It may be an ambulance or an unmarked car but in some areas is also driven by the police.

Custody a ‘last resort’

Patients across Scotland often complain about being shipped between hospital and crisis services by police after officers receive a 999 call for concern for a person.

Police Scotland have a policy of only taking someone mentally ill to a police station as an “absolute last resort” and to protect their safety or that of the public.

It’s hoped the presence of a psychiatric nurse will ensure appropriate care is given straight away.

The date for its introduction has not yet been confirmed.

The news was revealed in a DHSCP board meeting during discussions about a much-anticipated mental health crisis centre for the city.

Although welcoming the introduction of a dedicated vehicle, chairperson and councillor Ken Lynn sought reassurances the 24-hour centre would be fully operational “as soon as possible”.

Locality manager Arlene Mitchell said she was “confident” a building will be found by autumn and operational before the end of 2021.

A spokesperson for DHSCP said: “Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership is delighted to have been chosen by the Scottish Ambulance Service as one of the next project sites to introduce a specialist mental health response to people contacting emergency services because of emotional distress.

“The project will see the introduction of a mobile unit, jointly staffed by paramedics and experienced mental health nurses, who will be able to assist with both the physical and mental health needs of callers.

“The mobile unit will be operational seven days a week during evenings and into the early hours of the morning.”

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