St John pathway to expands to allow ambulances to refer mental health patients
An initiative that connects ambulance patients with health services before they need urgent care in Nelson has been a success, with plans for it to expand into other regions.
The "referral pathway" has been live for a year, a joint initiative between Nelson Marlborough District Health Board (NMDHB) and St John in the Nelson region it was first rolled out last July.
An option to refer patients for mental health care will also be added to the pathway after data revealed a significant proportion of people wanted to be connected with mental health services.
READ MORE: * New initiative to benefit ambulance patients
St John shift manager Kris Gagliardi said the pathway provided a good opportunity to connect people with the right help.
An estimated 80 per cent of calls to the ambulance service were for cases classified as minor or moderate and did not require urgent transportation.
Paramedics assessed patients to determine if they were safe to stay at home and could then refer them on to key community health services
Almost 400 referrals were made in the first year, 25 per cent of the total number of people who were treated at home and not taken to hospital.
"There has been a mindset change, paramedics are seen as health professionals, not just people who take patients to the emergency department," he said.
"The strategy is to roll it out for other regions and I hope it will be picked up by others."
The majority of people (59 per cent) were referred to the falls prevention programme, followed by nine per cent referred for smoking cessation and five per cent for respiratory conditions.
Within the "other' category, social support and home help, and mental health had been notified as significant areas that where help was required.
There had been an increase in the number of mental health callouts that ambulances in the region responded to.
In January 2011, St John Nelson responded to an average of 15 mental health callouts per month and by August 2016 that had risen to an average of 28 calls a month.
Gagliardi said the pathway would help to provide better support for patients with mental health conditions.
It had enabled paramedics to identify frequent callers with high needs to ensure they received the best care.
There are now plans for the referral pathway to be developed in Marlborough, with referrals to the falls prevention programme currently being rolled out on the West Coast.