When police attend an incident out of hours, and believe that an individual involved has a mental illness, learning disability or substance misuse problem, they contact the street triage team of mental health nurses to carry out an immediate assessment. This determines whether the person should be held under Section 136 of the MHA and if not, whether any follow up is needed from mental health, social or substance misuse services.

It means those people who do need care and treatment receive the right services quickly, and that those who don't are not unnecessarily detained.

We have two street triage teams in the trust; one in Teesside working with Cleveland Police, and one in Scarborough working with North Yorkshire Police.

The service has been backed by the Home Office and has received national praise, including from the former Home Secretary, and now prime Minister, Theresa May. We have also had visitors from Police Scotland who are to develop services north of the border for the whole of Scotland based on our model, the Welsh Police forces and a mental health acute care team in Queensland Australia. 

The Teesside service with Cleveland Police

The original pilot in Teesside was developed as part of the national liaison and diversion development programme. There were high numbers of people being brought to a place of safety (eg at a police station or hospital) under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act (MHA), who were later released as not being mentally ill.

This doesn't mean that those people didn't need some level of intervention or support based on their situation, but using the place of safety as an intervention was not always proportionate nor did it meet their needs.

By using the street triage team to carry out an assessment, people could receive the care and treatment they needed straight away, without any unnecessary detention either in a police station or hospital.

In a ten month period before the street triage team was formed, 427 people were detained under section 136 of the MHA. In the first ten months of operation 294 people were seen by the street triage who would previously been detained under section 136 by the police, and only 12 of these resulted in detention under S136.

The service is available daily from 4pm until midnight.

Nurses from the street triage team are also providing mental health awareness training to Cleveland Police officers, to further equip them with a wider knowledge and understanding of mental illness.

The team also works closely with secondary mental health services, police, probation, social services, housing providers, benefits agency, citizens advice bureau, relate, Mind, improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) and many other support agencies to help prevent and reduce offending.

The Scarborough service with North Yorkshire Police

Following a successful pilot in Cleveland and Leicester, the Home Secretary Theresa May pledged to roll out the service to four other areas of the country. Scarborough was chosen as one of those.

Nurses from the street triage team, who are based at Cross Lane Hospital, will use an unmarked vehicle to provide a confidential, on-the-spot assessment of the person's needs.

Chief Constable at North Yorkshire Police, Dave Jones, welcomed the news. He said: "It is vital that people with mental health issues receive the most appropriate care when they need it." Police officers are regularly called to incidents involving people who are in need of care and support, but often have no option other than to take them into police custody for their own and other people's safety. The street triage project means that they will receive immediate and appropriate help on the spot.

Complementing the new street triage service in Scarborough is the opening of a new Section 136 'place of safety' at Cross Lane Hospital. This is somewhere a person can be detained for up to 72 hours if they are in mental health crisis and it's believed they're in immediate need of care for the sake of their own, or another person's, safety. While detained in the place of safety, medical assessments take place and arrangements are made for treatment and care.