The two officers will contribute to reducing the impact that mental health has on both patients and our communities by assisting with the effective management of patients in line with their care plan. They will use the combined clinical expertise of a mental health professional with the boundary setting skills of the police. For the police service, this will see a positive reduction in repeat 999 calls, and for the health professionals a reduction in demand in accident and emergency and fewer hospital admissions.
They will assist with the assessment of vulnerable individuals and levels of risk associated with problematic behaviour, and work with frontline responders to develop care plans specific to the needs of the individual.
The two year pilot is being funded by the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the police and a grant from the Transformation Challenge Award and is a programme that has been replicated elsewhere in the country.
Both posts are civilian and one post will operate from the west of the county, while the second will work in the east. Inspector Richard Hill from Suffolk Constabulary said: "This pilot will provide much needed support for those Suffolk residents whose illness impacts disproportionally on public services with the aim of reducing demand on emergency and health services. It will ensure an integrated approach to supporting those most in need.
"This is one of a number of initiatives the force has or will be introducing to help reduce demand on the police, with assistance from partners and communities. We also want to support the vulnerable in our community and allow our frontline officers to focus on their core operational roles. It is vital we provide a proactive and visible service, that is responsive, fit for the future and one that continues to listen to the public.”
Stuart Richardson, Chief Operating Officer from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: "Mental ill health is a system-wide issue which impacts upon all of our public services, which is why it is so vital for us to work together to find effective ways to support individuals who are experiencing difficulties.
"This initiative is a great opportunity for us to work more closely with our police colleagues to help vulnerable service users to better understand their behaviour and find ways to manage more effectively when they are facing a crisis.”
Dr John Hague, a GP in Ipswich and mental health lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "It is important we do all we can to support those people who are living with mental health issues and I am particularly pleased to see the introduction of this new project.
"Not only will it provide a personal and more appropriate and effective support mechanism for those vulnerable people, it will also, by better meeting their needs, reduce the level of interactions they have with police and health and care services, meaning those services can better focus on the needs of others.
"The project is another really good example of how our public sector organisations are working together in a joined-up way for the benefit of our communities.”
Tim Passmore, Suffolk's Police and Crime Commissioner said: "Supporting the most vulnerable in our communities falls to many different agencies so it is crucial that we all work together.
"I fully support this partnership working, anything that helps improve public service and lessens the demand on our frontline police officers by reducing repeat use of mental health legislation and 999 calls has my blessing.
"Reducing demand is key to an efficient and effective police force and our officers need support from health professionals to ensure the vulnerable are cared for, this will also enable our officers to focus on policing.
"I wish these two new health professionals the very best in their new roles.”
The Eastern Academic Health Science Network is supporting delivery of this new service as part of a wider programme introducing proven health innovations to the Eastern region. This forms part of a nationwide set of activities to support innovation in the NHS, led by NHS England with the regional AHSN Network.
This pioneering project integrates healthcare and policing to make a positive difference to the lives of patients with complex mental health needs and their families. This intervention has been shown to significantly reduce 999 calls, ED attendances and hospital admissions.