Guest blog: Paramedic in the Mental Health Street Triage team

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Lisa Merkitt MHST

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, Paramedic Lisa Merkitt has written about her experience working as part of the national award-nominated Mental Health Street Triage in Bedfordshire.

I joined EEAST in 2008 as an ambulance support worker in Hertfordshire. I started the student paramedic pathway in 2009 and registered as a qualified paramedic by 2014.

I first got the taste for mental health work in the ambulance service at a clinical patient safety conference in West Midlands that was delivered by their mental health street triage (MHST) team and instantly thought Bedfordshire would benefit from the same service.

It was completely supported by management, Bedfordshire Police, and East London Foundation Trust (ELFT) and by May 2016 the scheme was launched.

The main reason I wanted to bring MHST to Bedfordshire was to improve the level of service we were delivering to patients experiencing mental health problems. At the time it was the best we could do, but I knew this scheme would also benefit the wider health service in the county. For patients experiencing mental health issues, being admitted into A&E isn’t always the best pathway for them.

In the past year since we launched the team, we have responded to more than 1,700 calls which is testament to the importance of what we do for our patients as well as the three services involved. We triage every incident to prioritise those in crisis so we get to those who need us most the quickest. During that process, we check ambulance, police, and mental health records to get vital information on them. We then discuss the most appropriate approach to each call, usually led by the mental health nurse. Never before has there been such a valuable and insightful sharing of information between agencies in real time emergencies in the east of England.

We also operate a telephone advice service to staff and low risk patients which keeps us very busy – the most referrals we’ve had was nine in the space of 20 minutes. The workload can be tough at times but it’s extremely rewarding and I believe that it is a service that should be implemented across the region.

Having witnessed first-hand the huge impact we have had on patient lives it only makes me want to take this service onto bigger and better things.

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