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Police-related triage interventions for mental health-related incidents: a rapid evidence synthesis

Health Services and Delivery Research, No. 7.20

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Author Information
Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; .


Although there is published evidence that aims to describe and evaluate various models of police-related mental health triage, most evaluations are limited in scope and methodologically weak.



Police officers are often the first responders to mental health-related incidents and, consequently, can become a common gateway to care. The volume of such calls is an increasing challenge.


What is the evidence base for models of police-related mental health triage (often referred to as ‘street triage’) interventions?


Rapid evidence synthesis.


Individuals perceived to be experiencing mental ill health or in a mental health crisis.


Police officers responding to calls involving individuals experiencing perceived mental ill health or a mental health crisis, in the absence of suspected criminality or a criminal charge.

Main outcome measures:

Inclusion was not restricted by outcome.

Data sources:

Eleven bibliographic databases (i.e. Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Criminal Justice Abstracts, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PAIS® Index, PsycINFO, Scopus, Social Care Online, Social Policy & Practice, Social Sciences Citation Index and Social Services Abstracts) and multiple online sources were searched for relevant systematic reviews and qualitative studies from inception to November 2017. Additional primary studies reporting quantitative data published from January 2016 were also sought.

Review methods:

The three-part rapid evidence synthesis incorporated metasynthesis of the effects of street triage-type intervention models, rapid synthesis of UK-relevant qualitative evidence on implementation and the overall synthesis.


Five systematic reviews, eight primary studies reporting quantitative data and eight primary studies reporting qualitative data were included. Most interventions involved police officers working in partnership with mental health professionals. These interventions were generally valued by staff and showed some positive effects on procedures (such as rates of detention) and resources, although these results were not entirely consistent and not all important outcomes were measured. Most of the evidence was at risk of multiple biases caused by design flaws and/or a lack of reporting of methods, which might affect the results.


All primary research was conducted in England, so may not be generalisable to the whole of the UK. Discussion of health equity issues was largely absent from the evidence.


Most published evidence that aims to describe and evaluate various models of street triage interventions is limited in scope and methodologically weak. Several systematic reviews and recent studies have called for a prospective, comprehensive and streamlined collection of a wider variety of data to evaluate the impact of these interventions. This rapid evidence synthesis expands on these recommendations to outline detailed implications for research, which includes clearer articulation of the intervention’s objectives, measurement of quantitative outcomes beyond section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 [Great Britain. Mental Health Act 1983. Section 136. London: The Stationery Office; 1983 URL: (accessed October 2017)] (i.e. rates, places of safety and processing data) and outcomes that are most important to the police, mental health and social care services and service users. Evaluations should take into consideration shorter-, medium- and longer-term effects. Whenever possible, study designs should have an appropriate concurrent comparator, for example by comparing the pragmatic implementation of collaborative street triage models with models that emphasise specialist training of police officers. The collection of qualitative data should capture dissenting views as well as the views of advocates. Any future cost-effectiveness analysis of these interventions should evaluate the impact across police, health and social services.


The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.


About the Series

Health Services and Delivery Research
ISSN (Print): 2050-4349
ISSN (Electronic): 2050-4357

Article history

The research reported here is the product of an HS&DR Evidence Synthesis Centre, contracted to provide rapid evidence syntheses on issues of relevance to the health service, and to inform future HS&DR calls for new research around identified gaps in evidence. Other reviews by the Evidence Synthesis Centres are also available in the HS&DR journal.

The research reported in this issue of the journal was funded by the HS&DR programme or one of its preceding programmes as project number 13/182/14. The contractual start date was in September 2017. The final report began editorial review in June 2018 and was accepted for publication in September 2018. The authors have been wholly responsible for all data collection, analysis and interpretation, and for writing up their work. The HS&DR editors and production house have tried to ensure the accuracy of the authors’ report and would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive comments on the final report document. However, they do not accept liability for damages or losses arising from material published in this report.

Declared competing interests of authors


Last reviewed: June 2018; Accepted: September 2018.

Copyright © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2019. This work was produced by Rodgers et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. This issue may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and extracts (or indeed, the full report) may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising. Applications for commercial reproduction should be addressed to: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK.
Bookshelf ID: NBK541873PMID: 31162918DOI: 10.3310/hsdr07200


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