North East mental health training initiative in royal spotlight

A ground-breaking initiative to transform mental health crisis responses developed by professionals in the North East has been in the royal spotlight this week.

Respond, a simulation training package for professionals in mental health crisis care, was the focus of a workshop attended by HRH The Duke of Cambridge at the National Mental Health and Policing Conference, in Oxford.

The Duke gave a short speech at the event highlighting the importance of mental health, before joining workshops with professionals who are pioneering change in mental health policing. As a former air ambulance pilot, the Duke has a strong interest in both mental health and the issues facing first-responders.

Respond was developed in the North East of England by professionals in mental health crisis care, working closely with ‘experts by experience’ who have direct experience of using mental health services. It simulates crisis scenarios using video and audio clips of real people with real experience of those situations.

It brings together everyone involved in supporting people in mental health crisis – doctors, nurses, police, paramedics, approved mental health workers and experts by experience – to explore their problem-solving skills, knowing that mistakes can be made without any long-term consequences.

This was a huge boost for a project that is making a real difference in people’s lives. The Duke listened intently to our presentation and clearly has a strong interest in mental health issues.  Respond is unique in the way it helps professionals to experience the emotions and pressures of highly stressful situations, so they can understand each other’s roles more clearly. This is the key to making sure that people get the support they need – whichever service they turn to first. 

Claire AndreClinical Police Liaison Lead, NTW

Inspector Steve Baker, Mental Health Force Lead of Northumbria Police said: “We have made huge strides in the way we deal with mental health in our region and Respond is a really innovative project.

“Every day our officers interact with vulnerable people who suffer incredibly complex mental health issues and it’s vital that we understand how we can improve the way we engage with them.

“Over 400 professionals in the North East have now completed Respond training, and we are keen for other regions to benefit from this training package.”

The training was designed in the North East by agencies involved in the crisis pathway and experts by experience, and delivered with funding from the North East Urgent and Emergency Care vanguard, part of the NHS new models of care programme.

Dr Stewart Findlay, chair of the North East and North Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said: “We are working on a range of initiatives to improve the urgent and emergency care system and reduce the pressure on services.

“Respond can help organisations develop their understanding of each other’s roles, meaning a better experience for patients and improving the way the urgent and emergency care system operates.”

The project is supported by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust; Northumbria Police; North East and North Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network; the Experts by Experience Group of the charity Fulfilling Lives; Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust; North East Ambulance Service; Newcastle City Council; and the Northern England Strategic Clinical Network.