"I love the challenge of facing situations and difficulties I’ve not had in any other role in my career."
Brett ‘fell into’ mental health nursing and can’t imagine doing anything else. His current role as a Mental Health Nurse is Team Lead for the Street Triage Team in North West Sussex sees him working with the police, out on patrol with officers who respond to 999 calls across North West Sussex. Here’s his story.
Why did you become a mental health nurse?
I fell into it really. At school I always wanted to be a paramedic.
My mum was a manager of a general ward at Zachary Merton Hospital in Rustington. She was aware that I wanted to move on from working in a nursing home where I was working. At the time, there was a recovery ward located on the first floor of the hospital and she asked me if I wanted her to get me some application forms. So, needless to say I got the job as a nursing assistant, and haven’t looked back.
Tell us about your current role and ‘street triage’.
I’m the team lead for the Street Triage team in North West Sussex. This involves working alongside a police officer from the response team responding to 999 emergency and 101 calls.
Our aim is to help reduce the amount of patients being detained under Section 136 (Section 136 is an emergency power which allows the police to take people to a place of safety from a public place if they considers that person is suffering from mental illness and in need of immediate care) but instead enabling them to access services in an expedient way that is appropriate for them. This work not only covers all ages, form children to the very elderly, but also every type of mental illness from dementia to depression. The work is so varied and it is impossible to predict what you are going to face on any day.
What do you love most about your job?
What’s not to love about it?! The unpredictability for sure is up there as no two days are the same. I love the challenge of facing situations and difficulties I’ve not had in any other role in my career.
It’s stimulating because it covers every age and need. The rewards are great, too, as it is very satisfying to have prevented a detention under Section 136 and know that I’ve helped someone to access the appropriate mental health service in a timely manner.
Working alongside the police is really interesting too, and I love the fact that I’m learning so much and appreciating how difficult and how much police officers have to do in terms of attending jobs that have a mental health aspect. Being able to assist them in gaining knowledge in different diagnoses and management is rewarding in itself.
What makes the NHS so special?
The NHS is special, because no matter what health related matter you have, be it a mental health aspect or a physical one, people deserve to get the appropriate help to enable them to lead as full a life as is possible. NHS services provided by a wealth of disciplines helps enable this no matter of social or economic status. Other countries’ models of healthcare provision potentially alienate those who are not as financially well off.
What do I think the next 70 years hold for the NHS?
Honestly, I feel that unless significant resources are put into the NHS, issues from recruitment to service delivery is going to become a bigger challenge.
From a mental health perspective I think that community teams need more investment so that caseloads can be more manageable. This, in turn, will ease the pressure off acute services.
Still, with relatively new initiatives like Street Triage, I do have some hope that the NHS can keep coming up with imaginative and effective ways to positively engage with people when they need it most and help them to overcome ill health and adversity.