Mental health staff to work in ambulances and 999 call centres as crisis hits UK

Mental health staff

Mental health nurses and psychiatrists will work in 999 call centres and accompany paramedics on ambulance callouts, it has been announced.

People facing mental health crises can access immediate help with the new scheme, it’s hoped.

The move, announced by NHS England today, comes after demand for mental health crisis services doubled since 2017.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, it has increased by a third.

Around 200,000 people a month call 24/7 crisis lines and there are around 90,000 referrals each month to community crisis services.

Some NHS trusts have already tested the new scheme – with results suggesting it can reduce the number of mental health crisis patients needing A&E treatment.

It comes as the cost of living crisis severely impacts the mental health of people across Britain.

Researchers at Swansea University found the crisis was leading to heightened anxiety and stress, with many, particularly those on low incomes, worried about the uncertainty of the future.

Meanwhile, new research by YouGov for Rethink Mental Illness has revealed that mental health has worsened since the start of the year.

The charity found more than one-quarter of UK adults (29%) are reporting that their mental health is worse compared to the start of the year, contrasted against 21% who said that it was better.

One in 5 people (20%) reported they had experienced suicidal thoughts, while more than one in 10 (12%) reported that they had experienced a mental health crisis and needed professional support.

The NHS is also set to roll out around 100 specialist mental health ambulances across the country over the next three years.

Getting support to people suffering a mental health crisis quickly is critical and will be even more important over the coming months, National director for mental health at NHS England, Claire Murdoch, has said.

She has cautioned the NHS is ‘facing a perfect storm with winter virus cases rapidly increasing alongside ongoing pressures in emergency care’.

Ms Murdoch has urged people to reach out to the NHS if they are struggling with their mental health.

Sophie Corlett, interim chief executive at the mental health charity Mind, has welcomed the announcement, saying it ‘will help many people to more quickly access the type of care most appropriate for them’.

Mental health minister Maria Caulfield added: ‘Crisis services can be vital for so many that are suffering and can make all the difference in ensuring someone is seen and treated as quickly as possible – so it’s great that they will be bolstered by more mental health trained staff over this busy period.’