Ambulance service boosts workforce with new staff to improve mental health care

Scotland’s national ambulance provider has taken on 21 new mental health staff members to bolster its services.

The recruitment drive has been supported by the Scottish Government’s funding of £1.6 million given to the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) in the last three years as part of its Mental Health Strategy – a 10-year plan to boost mental health services in Scotland.

The new team of staff members includes 13 mental health paramedics and a manager, and four mental health dispatchers – the first people to accept an emergency call.

The remaining three new recruits are “clinical effectiveness leads” – staff who offer support across a range of services with a focus on education and connecting key partners to improve the help provided.

The funding has also supported the continuation of the service’s Mental Health Triage cars, which provide specialist care to people who are experiencing mental health challenges and have called 999 for an ambulance.

These cars offer a joint response from a mental health practitioner and a paramedic to meet the patient’s immediate needs.

There are three mental health cars available for the east, west and the north, based in Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness.

SAS’s regional director for the east region, Kenny Freeburn (pictured, right), said: “This funding continues to support the expansion of our initiatives to help in how we care for people experiencing mental health distress.

“It’s estimated that at least one in four people a year in the UK will experience mental health challenges, and the number of people contacting the emergency services about mental health concerns is also increasing.

“Our clinicians are often the first responders to have contact with a person experiencing mental health distress. Our ambition across all our initiatives is to connect people to the most appropriate care to meet their needs in as timely a manner as possible.”

SAS has also partnered with NHS 24 and Police Scotland to improve its support for people calling 999 to report mental health distress.

When appropriate, SAS connects callers to NHS 24’s Mental Health Hub which is accessible for patients 24 hours a day and is staffed by psychological wellbeing practitioners, mental health nurse practitioners and mental health senior charge nurses.

Mental Wellbeing Minister, Kevin Stewart (pictured, left), said: “Mental wellbeing is more important than ever right now and I am pleased to see this initiative being established as part of the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy.

“With these three triage cars and over 20 dedicated roles within this service, it means people in need of mental health support will get it quicker and that can only be a good thing.”

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