A day in the life of a mental health street triage team

Emma Hart,
Engagement Manager,
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of spending the day with Cheshire Police mental health street triage team; ‘Operation Emblem.’

The team involves police officers and mental health practitioners working together when responding to people in crisis.  Together, they have access to both police and mental health records so both professionals can more accurately assess risk, make better informed decisions and achieve better outcomes for the individual. Both the local police and the NHS trusts benefit long term by being able to identify issues more effectively and intervene earlier to prevent a crisis developing.

Local places across the country have adopted slightly different approaches to collaboration between the police and health in response to mental health crisis care. Therefore, I was keen to learn a little more about the work being undertaken within Cheshire.

I reported for duty at 8am ready to meet PC Mark Jenkins. Mark and another police colleague are co-located at one of the local hospitals alongside a team of mental health nurses. Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Jane – a mental health professional with nearly 30 years’ experience.

Within minutes of being in the office I could sense that this was a great team environment. This was clear as the day started with a little mockery over who’s turn it was to make the first brew.

After a short while I began to understand more about how this environment operated. A large proportion of Mark’s time was spent proactively monitoring the police system for any appropriate incidents involving mental health where Operation Emblem could provide assistance.

When an incident was identified, Mark was able to conduct the relevant checks on the police system, supported by Jane who was able to provide any relevant information that was available on the mental health system.

Throughout the course of the day there were incidents where Mark, Jane and I were deployed alongside a paramedic in response to a person in crisis. In other cases, incidents were managed from the office, via a phone call or a follow up appointment with other team members.

All decisions were efficiently, justifiably and proportionately made as a result of sharing information.  By having access to the ‘bigger picture’, it allowed Mark and Jane to offer the best response possible to those who were in crisis at the time that they needed it most.

What I found remarkable, was that although only small, Operation Emblem has had such a significant impact to lives within Cheshire. Co-location and better partnership working has seen a substantial reduction in section 136s since implementation two years ago, meaning vulnerable people are receiving the most appropriate care in times of need.

But it’s not just service users who are realising the benefits of the collaboration. A local authority in the area has seen such an improved reduction in road closures associated with suicide or attempted suicide that they have invested in the work by purchasing a dedicated vehicle for the team. Undeniably, great impact all round.

As I left for the day and headed home on the train, a number of thoughts entered my mind. Quite rightly, the public sector is now focusing on the needs of the ‘people’ who we are delivering our services for, as opposed to focusing on the processes that drive the service.

But what about the ‘people’ who are delivering the service themselves? How are we ensuring that they are receiving the correct support and care as a result of conducting the work that they do? Who is safeguarding, those who safeguard?

To learn more about why the triage team was set up, you can read our guest blog written a few months ago by PC Mark Jenkins.

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