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North Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt joined the county’s Police, Ambulance and Mental Health Street Triage team yesterday and spent the evening seeing at first hand the help the joint blue light initiative gives to those in crisis – as new data issued by PCC Kathryn Holloway shows the service is working to save unnecessary hospital admissions and cash.

Alistair Burt MP said: “I was out with the Mental Health Street Triage team from 3pm till 1am from Bedford to Luton, and we were attending incidents involving men and women, and younger and older people - a typical night I think.

“I was deeply impressed with the combination of compassion and professionalism of the team. Working in challenging situations, they could put those with serious difficulties in a better place. Pooling their expertise as a paramedic, police officer and psychiatric nurse they complemented each other and worked as a strong team. I commend the PCC and all involved in developing this excellent response group.”

“Having a Member of Parliament and former Mental Health minister visit our triage team and make such a commitment to spending hours on the road with them to see the sort of cases they can help with allows us to showcase to Government how Bedfordshire Police is leading the way in providing provisions for people in crisis,” said PCC Kathryn Holloway.

The team attended incidents including a woman threatening to jump from a multi-storey building and a teenager who had taken an overdose, cases which previously would have been referred to police alone.

“Without access to medical records and a mental health history, police officers would previously have had to attend these cases and make a judgment, without any medical training, as to whether a person should be taken to hospital as a so-called Section under the Mental Health Act. The involvement of Mental Health Street Triage, with a paramedic making sure the person does not need to attend A&E, a mental health nurse helping to calm them and accessing details of medication and their known condition and a police officer to tell the others whether there is any known marker for violence against the individual or at the address, means everyone concerned is safer and the patient is put on the route to proper care.

“What’s more we can now prove from data since the service started at the end of May that where Mental Health Street Triage is concerned only half the number of patients end up going to hospital and being sectioned and detained, compared with those taken there by other police officers who do not have this back-up available to them,” said Commissioner Kathryn Holloway.

Evidence produced to the Commissioner’s Strategic Board has showed that of 21 detentions under the Sectioning powers in two months, only 7 involved the Mental Health Street Triage Team while 14 were made by other police officers.

“And that’s not all, we can prove from the first couple of months of the service that other blue lights are also spared expense and unnecessary call-out.”
"It is estimated that had the Mental Health Street Triage team not been involved in incidents in June and July then:
- 33% would’ve led to an ambulance callout
- 32.72% would have led to a police callout
- 21.97% would have led to A&E attendance
- 10.75% would have led to custody detention
- 0.92% would have led to a specialist doctor
- 0.31% would have led to acute admission to hospital for treatment
“Research from mental health charity Mind shows that one in four of us will experience a mental health crisis at some point. In the Street Triage’s first week, the team attended 35 incidents, which shows the demand we are facing and how important this pilot scheme is.

“The Force has already received glowing feedback with a 100% success rate in terms of those reporting back to us their satisfaction with the service. The level of demand which needed to be addressed is shown clearly by data from 2013-14 which reveals Bedfordshire Police attended 3,700 incidents related to Mental Health,” said Commissioner Holloway.

Gail Dearing from East London NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have been collecting feedback from people and their families referred to the Street Triage team and have received nothing but positive feedback.

“Having a mental health nurse on duty with a police officer and a paramedic is an incredibly important step for people who are experiencing a mental crisis and the feedback we’re receiving demonstrates that. It’s great that so many people are interested in the work of the Mental Health Street Triage and it was a pleasure to welcome Mr Burt along to find out more about the team.”

This pilot scheme sees a police officer, paramedic and mental health professional team up in one car to respond to mental health crisis calls 365 days a year. They will cover the whole county, operating from 3pm – 1am, with bases at Police Headquarters in Kempston and at Luton Police Station.

The team will attend incidents where there is an immediate threat to life – someone threatening to self-harm or commit suicide – or where a third party has called the police or ambulance and expressed concern. The team has a dedicated phone and can be referred to incidents by police and ambulance control rooms.
The Mental Health Street Triage is a partnership between Bedfordshire Police, East of England Ambulance Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Luton Clinical Commissioning Group and mental health charities MIND-BLMK and the Samaritans.