Mental Heath Nurses are Making a Difference in Cheshire

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John Dwyer

At the end of last week I responded to a call for evidence from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). They are in the process of commissioning a guideline on adults with mental health needs in contact with the criminal justice system. In responding to the call for evidence I took the opportunity to share with NICE examples of the good work that we are doing in Cheshire to make sure that our response to those suffering with mental health crisis get the same priority as those who suffer from a physical emergency. I wanted to share some of the examples I gave with you.

I have previously showcased the successes of "Operation Emblem" — a mental health street triage scheme. The scheme sees police constables and mental health nurses working side by side to offer an immediate response to situations that would benefit from the intervention of a mental health nurse and as a result reducing the number of unnecessary arrests.

A formal evaluation of the operation has been commissioned and current information shows continued positive results. Due to Operation Emblem being in place between December 2013 and December 2014 there has been a 90% reduction in detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act during periods whilst the team was on duty. This indicates better outcomes for individuals through early intervention.

Work is ongoing to further develop the ethos of joint working between police and health professionals. Over recent months mental health nurses have been located in the Cheshire Constabulary control room to work alongside control room staff. The nurses have been able to assist in dealing with incoming calls where potential mental health issues have been flagged and that may result in the deployment of officers or "Operation Emblem" staff. Using appropriate police and health data advice is provided on whether deployment of specialist resources is required and records kept which detail the decision and rationale.

Feedback from those working in the control room highlight that benefits are being felt by both control room and health staff and early indications show a positive impact in terms of appropriate deployment of specialist teams.

Recent developments will also mean that the victim referral unit will be able to refer victims with mental health issues who are need of support to the mental health triage team. This will provide specialist assessment and access to local community based mental health services for those victims who are assessed as needing them and will maximise the use and expertise of the specialist resources deployed within the teams.

Progress is being made in ensuring that those with mental health issues have access to and receive the support they need, at a time when they need it and that those who are suffering from problems linked to mental health are, where appropriate, diverted away from contact with the criminal justice system. Finally and importantly progress is also being made to make sure that those who are victims of crime get the support they need to cope and recover from their ordeal where and when they need it.