Better support for people who are in distress

Scottish Ambulance Service vehicle outside Borders General Hospital's accident and emergency department.
Scottish Ambulance Service vehicle outside Borders General Hospital's accident and emergency department.

A unique pilot programme which aims to improve the support given to people who present in distress to emergency services has helped its 1000th person.

The Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) programme is being piloted in four areas – Aberdeen, Borders, Inverness and Lanarkshire - by NHS Scotland, Police Scotland and Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS 24, six level 2 providers (including Scottish Association for Mental Health in the Borders )and the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health & Well-being.

The DBI pilot programme brings frontline hospital emergency department staff, police officers, GPs and Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) paramedics together to provide connected compassionate support to people in distress.

Trained front line emergency staff help ease any patient in immediate and often overwhelming emotional distress. The patient is asked if they would like further support and if they agree they are referred to the DBI service with a promise of face to face support within 24 hours.

Kevin O’Neil, national DBI programme manager, said: “The programme emerged from the Scottish Government’s work on suicide prevention and mental health strategies. Those who have received the DBI support show that their level of distress has halved and report experiencing very high levels of compassion.

“Over 1000 people have now benefited from this compassionate, connected support at such an early stage.”

Haylis Smith, mental health strategy and commissioning manager and lead for DBI in the Borders said: “People often present to emergency healthcare providers with an emotional pain which does not require an emergency service response. Their pain can be caused by factors such as relationship issues, loneliness, bereavement, money and housing worries.

“Evidence shows these situations don’t always require input from specialist mental health services, but people do need some support which is where DBI comes in.

“There has been a fantastic response in Scottish Borders from our partners in SAMH, Police Scotland, the BGH emergency department, primary care and Scottish Ambulance Service in helping to implement DBI and we have received some very encouraging feedback from those who have used the service telling us how much it has helped them.”

Jill Fletcher from the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Ultimately we hope the programme will help reduce the number of people presenting to emergency services as a result of distress by providing them with this additional support.

“It could also help us better identify mental health, social and substance misuse problems and reduce self-harm and suicide.”

The pilot’s success led to a visit by Rose Fitzpatrick, chair of Scotland’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group who met representatives from many of the partners, during Suicide Prevention Week last week.