Mental health triage is the process of initial assessment that occurs at point of entry to specialist mental health services. It is a clinical function in which a brief telephone-based mental health screening assessment is undertaken to determine whether the person has a mental health related problem, the urgency of the problem, and the most appropriate service response. Triage may also be used for assessment of current and former service users who make unplanned contact with the mental health service.
Mental health triage services typically operate twenty four hours per day to facilitate direct public access to mental health assessment, referral and crisis care. Triage services operate through a ‘single point of entry’, and may be co-located within the Emergency Department of the general hospital, in the community mental health clinic, co-located at the psychiatric unit, or in a telephone call centre. The key aim of telephone-based mental health triage is to provide timely access to appropriate mental health assessment and care for people seeking assistance with a mental health problem. Triage is underpinned by the premise that a reduction in the time taken to access appropriate care will result in improved patient outcomes
Mental health triage scales are clinical tools used in specialist mental health services (distinct from emergency triage scales) designed to guide clinical decision-making in (triage) psychiatric screening assessments. Triage scales aim to optimise the accuracy and consistency of triage clinical decision-making, and facilitate timely service provision that is commensurate with the specific needs of health care users. The overarching goal of using a MHTS is to enhance the potential for safe, high quality mental health triage assessment through the use of evidence-based tools and frameworks for practice.
The UK Mental Health Triage Scale (UK MHTS)
The UK MHTS was developed in 2015 in the context of service improvements targeting frontline mental health services in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and Bridgend, Wales. Research was conducted at both sites to establish the reliability of the UK MHTS, which was adapted from an Australian MHTS that has been in wide use since 2009. The UK MHTS was found to have high levels of inter-rater reliability, and was subsequently implemented at both sites. A research article reporting on the study is currently ‘in press’ and will be added to the site shortly.
The UK MHTS and Guidelines for use can be accessed via the menu bar at the top of the page.
A video training tutorial on how to use the UK MHTS is in production and will be uploaded to the site in the next few weeks. This free educational resource is designed to support clinical staff and health services in implementing and applying the scale in frontline mental health services.
For information about using the UK MHTS in your health service
Associate Professor Natisha Sands: firstname.lastname@example.org
Associate Professor Stephen Elsom: email@example.com