Hull trials one of UK's first mental health ambulances following spike in call-outs

A new mental health ambulance is being trialled in Hull, following a spike in the number of 999 calls from those in crisis.  

The pilot scheme is one of the first in the country and is being rolled out by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Calendar can reveal exclusively that the number of emergency calls regarding mental health has risen by nearly 20 per cent across Yorkshire in the last three years.

Maisie Burke was just 12 when she was first detained by police, and sectioned under the mental health act.

"I mean even talking about it now, thinking about it now, it does make my heart go, because in those moments, it's not a helpful thing to see you know. For me, blue flashing lights, lots of people coming in and not knowing how to help the situation is not helpful to the crisis that you're currently in and when it is dealt with the wrong way it is traumatic."

Maisie Burke aged 12

It is something she has been through more than 20 times. Episodes sparked by her depression often ending in handcuffs.

Maisie, who is now 19, added: "It's stressful on a person who's going through that because somebody who is in that frame of mind, needs a very specific type of way to be treated and to be dealt with."

Maisie is not alone. Last year more than 23,000 emergency calls were made across Yorkshire, regarding mental health - that's an increase of nearly 20% since 2018.

Now, to support the ever increasing calls - Yorkshire ambulance service has designed a vehicle - for those in crisis.

Jon Thordarson, who is a paramedic with Yorkshire Ambulance Service said: "Prior to the pilot, anyone who is calling the ambulance service for a mental health related problem would get a response from a normal ambulance and that obviously takes away that ambulance being available for other calls and sometimes when it is a mental health related call it doesn't need a fully kitted ambulance, just needs someone to chat to, maybe transport to a place of safety or to the hospital, or referral to another service." 

It is one of the first of its kind in the country - and is being trialled, right here in Hull.

"We picked Hull because that was where the most mental health related demand in Yorkshire was. So we know that Hull is a place that is socially deprived and quite a lot of health inequality, which means that people are more likely to suffer with their mental health. We also know through the pandemic that people have been furloughed, made redundant, they have been socially isolated."

Maisie Burke from Hull speaking to Calendar reporter Astrid Quinn

As well as ditching the yellow exterior, the crews on board have all had extra training in mental health.

Something Maisie says is welcome news.

"I used to get comments when I was at school that 'oh she's always got a police van on her drive or an ambulance outside her house, so the fact that it's discrete is really good. It's the right step forward is what I think. It would be really beneficial for people with mental health problems." 

If successful, the scheme could be rolled out across other parts of Yorkshire.