One of the UK's first mental health response vehicles is being piloted at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) to provide dedicated support to patients in need of mental health support.
It forms part of the four-month trial period, which launched in April this year in the Hull area. Ambulance staff who have had additional mental health training will operate the vehicles, which are not designed in the traditional style with ambulance markings, as a way of making it more discreet.
It aims to support patients detained under the Mental Health Act, and those with less serious mental health issues, where face-to-face assessments are seen as the best option.
When someone is seeking support during a mental health crisis, emergency departments can add to the patient’s stress. Treatment is often recommended in the patient’s own home, in the community, or with alternative care or services, where their needs can still be met just as effectively, and sometimes even more.
Jon Thordarson, a paramedic working on the new vehicle, explained: "Prior to the pilot, anyone calling the ambulance service for a mental health-related problem would get a response from a normal ambulance.
“Sometimes when it is a mental health-related call, the patient doesn't need a fully kitted ambulance, they just need someone to chat to, maybe transport to a place of safety or to the hospital, or referral to another service."
The pandemic has had a huge impact on ambulance services, with more than 23,000 emergency calls made last year across Yorkshire regarding mental health. This shows an increase of 17% since 2018.
In the first two months of the pilot, the vehicle has so far responded to 60 patients with mental health issues, and 24 of those were referred to other services for support.
Lesley Butterworth, Lead Nurse for Urgent Care with YAS, said: "We picked Hull for the trial because that was where the most mental health-related demand in Yorkshire was.
“We know that Hull is a place that is socially deprived with quite a lot of health inequality which means that people are more likely to suffer with their mental health.
“We also know through the pandemic that people have been furloughed, made redundant and have been socially isolated so the need for this additional support is even greater.”
The vehicle has been developed in partnership with Humberside Police and Humber Teaching NHS FT.
Once the pilot has been completed, it will be evaluated before being considered for further roll-out across the region.