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Ambulance staff to have access to mental health crisis plans

Authorised staff will be able to retrieve full records of crisis plans as successful pilot scheme set to expand

Louise Prime

Friday, 11 October 2019

Authorised ambulance staff will soon be able to access patients’ mental health crisis plans while they’re on an emergency callout or even before they arrive, following successful initial pilots of the technology. NHS Digital said the service will mean that ambulance staff can make more appropriate decisions sooner, benefiting patients and saving time.

In the pilot areas of the National Record Locator – South London and Maudsley, Lancashire Care, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership, Cumbria Partnership and Humber NHS Foundation Trusts with the North East, North West, Yorkshire and London Ambulance Services – medics could see while still on the road whether or not their patient had a mental health crisis plan, as well as contact details of the crisis team responsible, which helped patients to get the most appropriate and best possible care.


NHS Digital announced yesterday that following these successful pilots, the scheme will now expand. In this next phase authorised ambulance staff will also be able to retrieve full records for patients’ mental health crisis plans, if they have one. This, it said, will allow them to make appropriate clinical decisions there and then, instead of taking the patient to accident and emergency, or referring back to other health professionals who could access the information.

November will see the first full record retrieval, as well as the addition of a further three trusts: Somerset Partnership, Mersey Care and Nottinghamshire Healthcare.

Head of the integrating care programme at NHS Digital, Mike Walker, said: “This pilot has so far been a fabulous success, with over 85,000 mental health crisis plan pointers added to the database across the country since last December, so that ambulance staff are less in the dark about the people they’re on their way to help.

“Now we’ve proven that the technology works, it’s time to open it up, to new areas of specialism, new settings: putting the clinical information itself into the hands of those that need it.

“Our ambulance staff do a fantastic job, handling real-life emergencies every single day.  Having access to the right information at the right time will mean fewer wasted trips to overstretched A&Es and better care for patients.”

NHS Digital added that the next phase of the pilot will also involve expansion into digital child health records being shared by child health organisations and health visitors, and into maternity services next year. In addition, mental health nurses will be able to access records when working in the community with the police, to promote joined-up service provision and appropriate care.

Rob Shaw, deputy chief executive of NHS Digital said: “This is another step on our journey to full integration of digital records, ensuring that front line staff in all settings have access to the records they need to continue delivering outstanding care.

“Services like the National Record Locator, NHS Identity and the Summary Care Record application have the potential to revolutionise the way that NHS staff work.”

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