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Background and aims

NHS England and NHS improvement have published a summary of work within London whereby people experiencing a mental health crisis were sent a specialist blue light mental health car staffed by a mental health nurse and a paramedic instead of a traditional ambulance. 

This scheme ensured that those with mental health needs get the right treatment which will help ease pressure on the NHS.


By responding together, the specialist ambulance crew had an aspiration to reduce mental health hospital admissions from 58,000 to 30,000 per year once rolled out across London. 

The scheme was piloted in November 2018 and was supported by 999 call handlers working with a mental health nurse in the control room to decide whether to dispatch the mental health response car. The mental health car responed to 999 calls between 11am and 11pm daily in South East London.

Outcomes and benefits

The South East pilot had the following outcomes:

  • The proportion of patients taken to A&E more than halved from 52% to 18% as more patients were treated effectively in their own homes and recieved other appropriate care.
  • Estimated to have helped around 2,000 people suffering with mental health issues, with initial findings suggesting that the scheme could halve the 60,000 annual mental health hospital admissions each year.
  • Mental health nurses working in clinical hubs supported calls to 111 and 999 by providing specialist advice and support to ambulance crews and patients over the phone.

This pioneering service is helping to ensure we provide the right and best possible care for people with mental health issues and is one of a number of ways we are safely reducing the number of people taken to hospital unnecessarily.

Dr Trisha Bain, Chief Quality Officer at London Ambulance Service

Additional information

  • You can find out more information on hental Health services in acute trusts by accessing the Care Quality Commission report.
  • You can read about mental health care in London, which has been published in the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust article and the NHS case study page.
  • You can watch a film about the mental health joint response team on YouTube.

The aim of the ZSA Case Studies is to introduce users to a range of examples of new and innovative practice, with the broad aim of working to support people with their mental health, bring awareness to and help prevent incidence of suicide. Please seek further information by contacting the ZSA and appropriate professional input prior to making a decision over its use.

This content was developed based on information within the public domain. If you would like to update this content, contact us

For more information on ZSA case studies, please refer to ZSA Policies.

Content last updated: 28/11/2022

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