David Bradley outlines how a new agreement on the principles of Right Care, Right Person will enable trusts, local authorities and the police in London to work to together to ensure people with mental health needs receive treatment by the most suitable professionals.
Every day, people struggle with their mental health. In some cases they need care during a mental health crisis. Everyone deserves to have this support delivered compassionately by those who are most appropriately skilled and trained to provide it.
That is why the Cavendish Square Group, a partnership of the NHS trusts that provide mental health services in London, has signed a national partnership agreement on the principles of Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) with the Metropolitan Police, the London Ambulance Service, London Councils and NHS England.
RCRP aims to ensure that people with mental health needs receive treatment by the most suitable professionals. It is a model that has generated positive outcomes, including reduced demand on all agencies, in other areas of the country when implemented over several years.
Some recent media coverage has suggested RCRP will mean the police will no longer attend any health incidents. This is not the case
A central part of this approach is looking at how and when the police respond to mental-health-related incidents. Some recent media coverage has suggested RCRP will mean the police will no longer attend any health incidents. This is not the case. We are clear that, in London, the police will attend a mental health incident to investigate a crime that has occurred or is occurring, or to protect people when there is a real and immediate risk to life, or if a person is being subject to or at risk of serious harm.
Making the changes clear for patients
For us, it’s important that the changes are clear for patients as well as those working across the health and care sectors. I know in my organisation, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, people are rightly asking questions around what it means for their patients and staff. As leaders, we have a duty to make sure that our frontline colleagues understand and feel safe and supported throughout the implementation of RCRP in the coming months and years. Working with the RCRP programme team we are planning staff engagement events involving all ten mental health trusts in London as an opportunity to listen, understand and respond to questions and concerns. It will also be necessary to share regular updates on the policy and legal frameworks and provide training, so everyone understands the different roles and responsibilities as part of RCRP.
This is just one step that we are taking to transform mental healthcare in our capital
Working with partners in the police, local authorities and across the health sector, our first step to ensure the safe implementation of this programme will take place on 31 October. Police call handlers will receive a new prompt when they answer a call relating to welfare checks or when a patient goes absent from inpatient care. The prompt will ask call handlers to check that a police response is required or whether the person’s needs may be better met by a health or care professional.
London Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat
This is just one step that we are taking to transform mental healthcare in our capital. In July, we launched the London Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, which was developed with black, Asian and minority ethnic communities; carers; the police; voluntary sector organisations; and experts by experience. It is focused on preventing mental health crises by supporting people to live well in their communities, but recognises that there should be access to timely and appropriate crisis support for those who need it. Two key components are building on the use of joint response cars and the introduction of NHS 111 First for Mental Health. Mental health joint response cars have been operating across London since 2018 with the aim of combining mental health professionals’ skills with paramedics'. A new NHS 111 telephone service for people with mental health challenges will be rolled out at the end of this year in London and nationally in 2024, so they can access timely and dedicated support.
Right Care, Right Person and the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat are major agreements from key partners in the police, local authority, health and care sectors, to use our resources appropriately and improve the mental healthcare available to Londoners. In the coming months and years, we hope to be able to share learnings with leaders across the country about how the NHS, police and local authorities can best work together to deliver outstanding patient care and relieve pressure on all of our resources at the same time.
David Bradley is the chief executive of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the Cavendish Square Group. You can follow David on Twitter @CEO_DavidB