Improving emergency mental healthcare

Thursday, 03 December, 2009

A joint report last month from the Ambulance Service Network and the Mental Health Network sets out how thousands of patients could get better treatment through joint working between ambulance services and mental health trusts.

Too many patients who are suffering from mental illness end up in Accident and Emergency departments which may not always be the most appropriate place for their care says a new report by Ambulance Service and Mental Health Networks called Getting to a good place: partnership working for mental health patients.

The report says that better training for paramedics on mental health issues, developing alternatives to A&E where this is appropriate, and sharing more information about the needs of patients with mental health problems can help improve standards of care.

Ambulance Service Network director Liz Kendall said: "Ambulance services see hundreds of thousands of people who have a mental illness or an underlying mental health problem. We know that patients with mental illness are more likely to have to wait longer for their treatment in Emergency Departments and to be dissatisfied with their treatment. Too many patients end up being discharged - or leaving before they are seen - only to end up ringing 999 again. Developing alternatives to A&E, and shifting the focus more towards prevention to stop this 'revolving door', will improve the quality of care for patients and deliver better value for money for taxpayers."

Steve Shrubb, Director of the Mental Health Network said, "Mental Health and Ambulance Services are already working together to improve care for patients with mental health problems in many parts of the country. This good practice needs to be spread more widely.
Government policies also need to recognize the vital role ambulance services can play in improving care for patients with mental health problems."

• Of 7.48 million emergency and urgent calls made to ambulance services in England in 2008/09, between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent of these responses were to patients with psychiatric problems/abnormal behaviour/suicide attempts.

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