West Lothian mental health care fast track scheme to provide 24 hour cover from next month

A scheme which fast tracks mental health care to vulnerable people in West Lothian will provide 24-hour cover from next month.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 9:13 am
Councillor Damian Doran-Timson.
Councillor Damian Doran-Timson.

The move builds on a successful project which has run for the last year in West Lothian in which local police have been able to call directly on the Acute Care and Support team (ACAST) for assistance when they encounter people in emotional crisis.

Previously officers had to take people to A&E at St Johns hospital and stay with them until they received treatment.

A report to West Lothian Council’s Health and Care Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) said: “The Acute Care and Support Team (ACAST), based within St John’s Hospital are the emergency psychiatric assessment service that carry out both scheduled and unscheduled clinical assessments for Mental Health.

“Approximately 2,000 unscheduled mental health assessments are carried out every year by the team. Scheduled assessments can come from a range of referral sources including GPs, Community Mental Health Teams and Police Scotland.”

In June 2020, ACAST and Police Scotland worked to create a direct referral route to ensure individuals in high levels of distress could be seen more quickly.

A pilot project was launched to measure the success of police officers referring directly through ACAST on a dedicated phone line. This not only ensured that officers could take the individual directly to ACAST within St Johns but would then be back out to serve the community if the risk was deemed appropriate to be managed by the ACAST service.

Nick Clater, general manager of West Lothian Health and Social Care (HSCP) Mental Health team told the meeting: “After the first 10 months of the pilot project, Police Scotland believe that around 40 days of policing time have been saved through the new process which has been described as a great success across our local policing teams.”

Mr Clater said the success of the pilot scheme had led the HSCP to move to set up a permanent programme and he added that the service will move to 24-hour cover, 365 days a year, from 23 August.

Members of the Panel welcomed the news.

Councillor Damian Doran-Timson said: “It’s a hugely positive step.”

Because of the complex nature of the care and support required for an individual in crisis, police previously would bring someone showing signs of distress to St Johns. Officers would then wait until the individual was seen by ACAST to ensure the safety of the patient.

This practice although effective and putting the patients safety first resulted in police officers spending long spells in St Johns and less time visible in their community.