BBC News

Street team tackles mental health call-outs in Glasgow

By Lisa Summers
Scotland Health Correspondent

media captionPolice and paramedics in pilot mental health project

A new "street team" is freeing up police officers routinely called out to people with mental health issues.

Four in every five police 999 calls do not involve a crime and are about welfare and mental health incidents.

Police Scotland has now joined with ambulance crews and the NHS in Glasgow to pilot a street triage team.

The new service aims to help people on the spot or direct them to services more quickly, a task that would have tied up police resources.

Previously, the only option for officers was to take the person to accident and emergency and wait with them for assessment.

Under the pilot scheme, a police officer teams up with a paramedic in an ambulance car.

'Long time coming'

They have a direct line to psychiatric nurses based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Sgt Edward McLemon said: "Police Scotland are not always the right organisation to deal with a particular incident.

"It's great to have a joint initiative that we deal with this and give people the right help that they need at the right time.

"It's something we're using quite regularly just now and it's been a long time coming.

media captionInspector David Cameron said NHS staff help them deal with the mental health concerns of those who end up in custody cells

"The controllers here and officers in the street really see a difference with that pilot".

Officers attended more than 42,000 incidents in 2014/15 involving mental health or distress.

A study in West Lothian found officers spend, on average, four hours and 20 minutes dealing with a single incident relating to mental health, self-harm or attempted suicide.

PC Deborah Simpson is one of three officers trained to work alongside a paramedic.

She said: "I think it has got potential to help a lot of people.

"We're seeing the benefits of it in the short space of time we've had, in the south end of Glasgow, and hopefully it can be rolled out.

"It makes a huge difference, not just to police resources but to the patient themselves.

"At the moment they make contact these people are suffering mentally and by being able to fast track the services, it gives them the best possible service."

'Unnecessary arrest'

Daniel Rankin, associate director for care quality and strategy at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "Delivering the right care to vulnerable patients suffering a mental health crisis is one of our priorities, which is why we are delighted to be part of this pilot program in Glasgow.

"We have been focusing on how the service can deliver the right resources to patients first time and this is a prime example of how we are working towards this."

David Williams, chief officer, Glasgow City health and social care partnership, said: "We are delighted to be part of this collaboration.

"Our mental health community out-of-hours team will provide support and advice via a dedicated phone line to the officer and paramedic called to a situation where there is a vulnerable individual.

"One of community psychiatric nurses can also speak directly to the individual offering advice and where appropriate a face-to-face assessment can be arranged.

"Vulnerable individuals will receive the fast and efficient access to care which can avoid unnecessary arrest or detention."

Related Topics

  • Police Scotland
  • Glasgow
  • Mental health