MENTAL health practitioners will join forces with Dorset Police to help assist officers on patrol.

The 12-month pilot Mental Health Street Triage service will run across Dorset and started yesterday. It will continue to operate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 7pm to 8.30am.

The scheme’s aim is to provide police officers attending an incident with background medical advice, and, if needed, a full assessment regarding the mental health of a person.

As part of the street triage service, mental health practitioners from Dorset Healthcare will conduct a telephone triage service to support police officers out on patrol, assist officers when they are responding to emergency calls and give advice to staff in police control rooms.

The scheme will operate across Dorset and, at the request of the police, the mental health professionals will also attend incidents initially in the Bournemouth and Poole conurbations from their base at Bournemouth Police Station.

This will extend to Weymouth in a few weeks’ time.

The service will be available to people of all ages, whether they have learning disabilities, personality dis-orders, substance misuse issues, or mental health issues and will also liaise with other agencies for continued support.

This scheme will divert people from the Criminal Justice System, when appropriate, and provide access to community-based services, thereby ensuring that their health and social care needs are known and provided for. Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “It is crucial that people with mental health problems get the right care in the right place, at the right time.

“With the support of health professionals, officers will have the assistance they need to treat vulnerable people appropriately in times of crisis.

“This is a huge step forwards in our partnership work between health services and the police.”

Chief Inspector Sarah Derbyshire, from Dorset Police, said the police had a ‘crucial role’ to play.

She said: “I believe that by working together we can improve the way people who are suffering with such health issues are dealt with.”