Norman LambMental health nurses will patrol with police officers in four new pilot sites to improve responses to mental health emergencies, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb announced at the Black Mental Health UK Conference.

The street triage scheme will see mental health nurses accompany officers to incidents where police believe people need immediate mental health support and avoid them being detained in the wrong environment. It will start in the summer.

The first four police force areas to pilot the scheme, which is funded by the Department of Health and backed by the Home Office, are: North Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, Sussex and Derbyshire.

Two street triage services in Cleveland and Leicestershire have already shown that nurses and police can work together to achieve better results for patients by making sure they receive the treatment they need.  This also reduced demands on police time.

The Department of Health has secured further funding to extend this pilot scheme to more police forces and a number of areas have already expressed an interest.  More announcements are planned in the near future.

Speaking at the Black Mental Health UK Conference, held in Wolverhampton, Lamb said: “In some areas the police already do an excellent job in terms of their handling of situations involving people with mental health problems and work well with health colleagues to make sure that mentally ill people in crisis get the care and attention they need, but we need to make that the reality everywhere.

“We are launching these pilots to make sure that people with mental health issues get the right care, at the right time and in the right place.

“We know the barriers often lie at the crossroads between police and health services. That is why we are working with the Home Office and leaders of the police to look at how we can improve services for the very vulnerable people involved.”

This work is part of wider work that the Department of Health is making to improve crisis care for mental health patients.

Other work includes:

• An urgent assessment of the availability of places of safety across England by mid-July
• An inspection of the quality of all places of safety by the Care Quality Commission
• Reviewing the provision of ambulance services for mental health emergencies later this year
• A concordat in place this autumn to improve the treatment of people with a mental health crisis.