NSW Ambulance initiative to improve treatment of mental health patients

After a year-long pilot program, NSW Ambulance have launched a Mental Health Acute Assessment team, which consists of a specially-trained paramedic and mental health nurse, to help improve the treatment of mental health patients.

Typically an Ambulance will take mental health patients straight to hospital, but under this new initiative a Mental Health Acute Assessment team, which consists of a specially-trained paramedic and mental health nurse, will be able to refer them to general practitioners or mental health facilities instead.  

The team, which was launched in October have been able to send almost half of the mental health patients to specialist facilities, bypassing emergency departments.

Cameron Clough, a paramedic trained in mental health, said taking ­patients to hospital for medical clearance could delay the care they really needed.

“You can imagine the difference to the well-being of the patient who was able to bypass the hospital ED (emergency department),” he said.

One of the nurses working in the team, Shobna Chandra, said an emergency department didn’t help mentally ill patients feel better.

“It’s all about not traumatising them further,” she said.

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