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Training ambulance staff to help patients in a mental health crisis

18 Aug 2016

London Ambulance Service crews will “definitely be changing [their] practice” after mental health training from West London Mental Health Trust.

In a ground-breaking development, West London Mental Health Trust and the London Ambulance Service have teamed up to offer paramedics training to improve the mental health treatment that patients with mental health problems receive in an emergency.

Trainer Mental Health Study Day

Trained primarily in dealing with physical health emergencies, paramedics and other ambulance staff can sometimes find treating patients who are experiencing a mental health crisis challenging. To give them the right skills to understand mental health problems, WLMHT’s crisis assessment and treatment team held a mental health training day for staff across the service.

Ed Sammons, support worker, who organised the training, said: “The mental health study day was a great opportunity to work with the London Ambulance Service. Being in a mental health crisis can be a daunting and frightening experience, so it’s vital that emergency staff are able to offer appropriate support.

“Feedback from staff who attended shows the study day was really well received, and has influenced the way London Ambulance Service staff will provide care when attending future urgent and emergency mental health calls. I hope this is the first of many study days between our trusts, and we already have some ideas for the future.”

The study day included information on the link between physical and mental health, perinatal mental health, the Mental Capacity Act and more. Information about the trust’s new Single Point of Access (SPA) helpline was also provided, so ambulance staff would know who to contact if they need to make a mental health referral.

The day concluded with London Ambulance Service staff working through a video case study on psychosis. The video is part of a series of reflective practice films which WLMHT worked with the service to develop, designed to improve awareness and confidence in managing mental health issues in emergency pathway staff.

The training was very well received, with staff commenting the day was “highly interesting and engaging”, and “has given me more clarity in my decision making”. One delegate praised the quality of the information they were given, saying “it’s shown me I need to learn so much more!”

In return for this mental health awareness training, London Ambulance Service will be providing WLMHT’s crisis assessment and treatment team training around ECG interpretation. The team have recently started recording 12-Lead ECGs in community physical healthcare clinics to bridge the gap between physical and mental healthcare. They will greatly benefit from the London Ambulance Service’s expertise.


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