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New service to help people with mental health issues get support and avoid jails and A&Es

Cumbria Police and local health and social care providers have teamed up to create a service aimed at providing the right support to people with mental health issues.

The Multi-Agency Crisis Assessment Service (MACAS) is funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner's office following a grant from the Home Office.

It involves different services, mainly a helpline that emergency services can call on behalf of a person in a mental health crisis, to help prevent them from being taken to A&E or from being detained in a police cell unnecessarily.

The helpline, called the Single Point of Access (SPA), will lead to a team of mental health professionals who have access to NHS patient records, helping to speed up the process of the person in question receiving help, instead of them being immediately sectioned.

They will also have access to a 72-hour assessment centre in Carleton Clinic, where the SPA team is also based.

The infographics below illustrate the difference in the procedure of emergency services dealing with a person with mental health issues before and after SPA.

Before the Single Point of Access helpline Credit: Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
After the Single Point of Access helpline Credit: Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Organisations involved in the multi-agency service include:

  • Police and Crime Commissioners office
  • North England Commissioning Support Unit (NECSU)
  • Cumbria Constabulary
  • Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT)
  • North West Ambulance Service (NWAS)
  • NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCCG)
  • Cumbria Constabulary
  • 3rd Sector Forum
  • Cumbria County Council, Health and CareServices
  • Service user and carer forum
MACAS will help make sure people with mental health issues will not be sent to A&E unnecessarily Credit: PA

The service is also in line with changes to Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, which governs how police can deal with and detain people who appear to have a mental health problem.

Organisers say there are three particular areas in which the agency is addressing this include:

1. Police officers must, if practicable, before detaining anyone under this legislation, consult with specific medical professionals. The SPA line enables this to happen.

2. No child under the age of 18, who is detained under this legislation, can betaken to a police station and must be taken to a recognised place of safety.

Thanks to a government grant we have improved each of the county’s 136 assessment suites to accommodate both adults and children.

3. When it is required, a mental health assessment must be conducted within 24 hours (down from 72 hours). There are some exceptions.

With the MACAS model and especially through the SPA we are confident that this can be met.

– MACAS

The SPA line is only for professionals, enabling experts to access the right information and the right support. This makes the entire process easier and smoother for others including freeing up time for the police, A&E and GPs. ]

The person with the mental health problem would also not have to wait for a long period of time to see the right person to support them.

Mindline is a support line for people with mental health issues, and their carers or families who want advice Credit: PA

There is a separate dedicated support line for carers and family members and individuals affected seeking advice. Mindline is run by the mental health charity, Mind. With access to the same support as SPA, the team can quickly direct their callers to appropriate specialist mental health support if needed.

The Police and Crime Commissioner office and health and social care professionals say the model the multi-agency crisis assessment service (MACAS) is proving to be successful.