Background The 2014 Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat is a national agreement to ensure people in crisis receive the help they need: integrated multi-agency schemes involving ambulance, police and mental health services are now being developed to provide urgent and emergency care pathways for these vulnerable patients. The aim of this study was to have improved understanding of mental health crisis (MHC) patients requiring ambulance care, to inform the development of new patient care pathways within the East of England.
Methods A retrospective pilot audit was performed using 291 ‘MHC’ patient care records generated following emergency ‘999’ ambulance and non-emergency ‘111’ calls in a distinct geographical area of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust between 22–29 December 2014. Criteria for record inclusion were presence of the terms ‘mental health’, ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’, ‘self-harm’, ‘self-injury’, ‘abnormal behaviour’, ‘psychosis’, ‘paranoia’, ‘suicide’, ‘suicidal thoughts’, ‘overdose’, ‘dementia’, or ‘Section’.
Results The cohort age range was 13 to 98 years; 50.5% were male. MHC usually affected people under 65 years. The main reasons for ambulance care were deliberate drug/substance overdose (33.7%) and actions/behaviour associated with suicidal intention (19.2%) – attempted suicide was reported for 14 (4.8%) patients. Anxiety (including ‘panic attacks’/hyperventilation syndrome), depression and behavioural/emotional problems were prevalent. Alcohol consumption was reported for 36.8% patients and police attendance was required for aggressive/threatening behaviour in 22% of incidences. Approximately two-thirds (64.6%) of patients were conveyed to the emergency department; only 12 (4.1%) patients were directly admitted to a mental health facility. The majority of patient contacts occurred ‘out-of-hours’, in particular, between 20:00 and 22:00 hours.
Conclusions Mental health crisis management is complex and challenging for ambulance clinicians with limited direct access to specialist services. Understanding the nature of crises and patient/public expectations of emergency services will facilitate the development of appropriate pre-hospital mental health pathways.
- prehospital care
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