Mental health ambulance for for trial in Fife town
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Area committee councillors agreed to spend £91,857 from the community recovery fund on Wednesday to implement and test the “mental health triage car.”
Fife's Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) say the investment is necessary to address the increase in emotional distress and mental health calls to police.
“Mental health, addiction, self-harm or attempted suicide plays a part in over 80% of calls to Police with a clear resulting effect on primary and secondary care in Fife,” the report to committee stated.
“The pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on mental health in Levenmouth and cause for concern calls continue to increase and have become a massive part of the Police day to day work. It’s believed only one in five calls to Police Scotland are related to crime.”
The mental health triage car would free up not only police time and resources, but it would also reduce the strain on accident and emergency centres, according to Fiona McGuire, NHS Fife’s clinical services manager for mental health adult pathways.
“At the moment, if anyone displays any sort of emotional distress the only avenue for police is to take them to A&E to look at whether a secondary care mental health referral is needed.”
Currently, 85% of Levenmouth’s mental health assessments show no need for significant mental health follow up.
“The implication is that it’s actually emotional distress that people are experiencing which has a significant impact on their functioning at that given time, but is not a significant mental health disorder,” Ms McGuire said.
“This is what the triage car would predominantly look at, and it would free up Police, A&E consultants and A&E time.”
Councillors scrutinised the nuts and bolts of the trial, but there was no argument about whether or not it was needed in the Levenmouth community.
Councillor John O'Brien (SNP for Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss villages) was happy to support the mental health ‘ambulance.’
Referencing a conversation he had with Fife’s Chief Superintendent of Police, Cllr O’Brien said he was aware that mental health call outs are draining police time and resources.
The mental health triage car will act like an ambulance for emotional distress/mental health incidents in Levenmouth. It will be dispatched to incidents in the same way that police and ambulances are regularly dispatched through 999 to deal with situations.
When the team arrives on site, there are two possible outcomes: the team can stabilise and de-escalate the situation and signpost the patient to community support and/or make appropriate referrals, or it can directly liaise with secondary mental health care services and facilitate safe transportation to those services if necessary.
During the six month trial, the triage car will operate from 8:00pm-6:00am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. These were identified as the peak times for mental health, non-criminal calls to police during a three month data collection period at the end of 2022.
The Scottish Ambulance Service will provide an operational vehicle as well as an experienced paramedic for the initiative. NHS Fife will provide a registered mental health nurse for the programme as well.
The trial programme will start as soon as there is an availability of staff. The Scottish Ambulance Service said it will expand recruitment now that funding has been confirmed.
The results and impact of the trial will be recorded and monitored throughout the process to determine whether or not it is viable in the long term.