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Nurses transform emergency call responses at major ambulance trust

Mental health nurses working in the emergency calls team at London Ambulance Service are improving care for patients.
London_Ambulance

Specialist mental health nurses in the emergency calls team are transforming care delivered by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, according to new data.

The six nurses were first recruited by the trust in 2015 in response to a rise in the number of people calling 999 for specialist mental health treatment and to the limited availability of out-of-hours crisis services.

The nurses, who have experience in acute crisis management, work in the clinical hub team and manage an average of 19 calls per 12-hour shift.

Ambulance dispatch

Their input has helped to reduce avoidable ambulance dispatches and journeys to emergency departments, while improving the confidence of staff to manage patients in mental health crisis.

A full-year evaluation to March 2016 found that, of 5,961 calls, 954 (15.9%) that would otherwise have prompted ambulance dispatch were managed through

Specialist mental health nurses in the emergency calls team are transforming care delivered by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, according to new data.

London_Ambulance
Picture: iStock

The six nurses were first recruited by the trust in 2015 in response to a rise in the number of people calling 999 for specialist mental health treatment and to the limited availability of out-of-hours crisis services.

The nurses, who have experience in acute crisis management, work in the clinical hub team and manage an average of 19 calls per 12-hour shift.

Ambulance dispatch

Their input has helped to reduce avoidable ambulance dispatches and journeys to emergency departments, while improving the confidence of staff to manage patients in mental health crisis.

A full-year evaluation to March 2016 found that, of 5,961 calls, 954 (15.9%) that would otherwise have prompted ambulance dispatch were managed through a hear-and-treat model. 

NHS Improvement’s executive director of nursing Ruth May said: ‘London Ambulance Service has reshaped its services to be more effective by listening to patient and staff experiences.

‘I am delighted that trusts like this are working hard to improve how they deliver care by helping those at the front line and offering more specialist support. 

‘This is a fantastic example of a trust recognising the benefits that safe and sustainable staffing can have in providing care to patients.’

Raising confidence

Furthermore, a survey of emergency operation staff found that 81% think the nurses' presence is beneficial overall and 85% think nurses offer specific benefits, including improved patient assessments and support.

NHS Improvement head of mental health policy Clare Lyons-Collins said: ‘By introducing specialist nurses to the emergency call centres, London Ambulance Service has helped staff feel more confident in supporting those experiencing a mental health crisis.

‘Finding new ways to better care for people who need mental health treatment is extremely important to our work.

‘One of our top priorities at NHS Improvement is to ensure NHS staff can build on their skills so they can continue to support those in mental distress.’

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