West Lothian triage system saves police hundreds of hours

A new partnership between mental health nursing staff and the police has saved 300 people from hospital admission in the last year.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 3:00 pm
Police Scotland
Police Scotland

And that has given police back 2,000 hours of time on the beat which would have been spent in escorted trips to hospital.

Local police commander Chief Inspector Alun Williams told West Lothian Council’s Services for the Community Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) abut the partnership.

He said: “This equates to a remarkable 2400 hours (or 240 full 10 hour shifts), of ‘saved’ officer time.

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“Based on two officers and (a conservative estimate) four hours for each incident requiring an assessment in person at St John’s Hospital, Livingston in March an estimated 96 policing hours were freed up.”

The new triage system connects officers directly to the West Lothian Community Mental Health Triage System- known as ACAST.

In the past, police dealing with a person apparently suffering from a mental health or emotional episode would normally need to escort them to A&E for assessment-with police waiting until that assessment was complete.

In his report Chief Inspector Williams explained more about the local mental health triage system.

He said: “Now they are able to call direct a Mental Health Nurse (MHN) to seek direction and advice.

"Appropriate in circumstances where risk presents at the lower end of a scale, the NHS staff member can consider the circumstances immediately.

"If the person does not meet the criteria, officers will still be directed to bring the person for face to face assessment at St John’s Hospital.

"Where satisfied that attendance at hospital is neither required nor proportionate, the MHN can speak to the person direct, offer advice and reassurance, provide coping strategies at source, make onward referrals, or make an appointment for a follow up at a future date instead.”

Mr Williams said: “The NHS commitment to this system is pivotal to the success of the scheme, and the MHN triage aspect key.

"The ACAST system frees up capacity at A&E/Out of Hours, whilst ensuring that those people who met the criteria, receive the most appropriate support at source.”