‘We use s136 50% less thanks to our mental health triage scheme’

Since the Dorset Crisis Care Concordat declaration was signed and published in February 2014, I am pleased to say that we’ve made huge steps forward in improving our mental health crisis care provision in the county. Shortly after sharing our ‘declaration of intent’, we launched a Mental Health Triage pilot scheme, jointly with Dorset Healthcare NHS University Foundation Trust, Local Authorities, Commissioners. This seemed to us to be the best possible solution to addressing the difficulties of providing a joined-up, cross-agency service to people in need, while also being a challenging one to implement.

What the pilot scheme has meant in practice, is that our officers have access to trained mental health practitioners when dealing with individuals in crisis. This provides them with a wider range of options, so they can ensure the most appropriate outcome is achieved for any one individual during a time of crisis. This also has made our officers much more confident in carrying out their duties when dealing with circumstances that are, although frequent, not ones they previously had the skills or equipment to manage appropriately. The impact of the scheme so far says it all, whilst it is operating: less than 50% of mental health crises where officers have considered using Sec 136 have involved use of s136 of the Mental Health Act since we launched in June 2014 compared to previously. With the support of partners we have worked to amend local policies and procedures that have led to a step change in how we are able to deal with individuals in crisis, a real team effort of which I am very proud to be a part of.

Of course there is still a long way to go. At the present time, neither Dorset Fire and Rescue nor the South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust have access to the same support from mental health professionals as we do, and yet both come to deal with situations of mental health crisis, just as much as the police do.
We are however exploring ways towards expanding the scheme to include these other agencies, and we are using the learnings from our experience to help shape the way we run the scheme in the future, with a multiplicity of agencies coming into play.

I feel VERY optimistic – we seem to have the evidence that triage schemes and partnerships built on a common goal work, they are practical and focused on providing key staff in emergency services with the knowledge and means to improve the quality of care they can offer the community. I couldn’t recommend the introduction of triage schemes to other localities more strongly.