Simulation training for Police and Ambulance Services: improving care for people with mental health needs

Publication piece on evaluating a multi-professional mental health training course

Fisher, M., Vishwas, A., Cross, S., & Attoe, C. (2019)


  • A simulation course was designed to train police and ambulance services in working for people who have mental health needs.
  • The preliminary findings of the course were that having experts from different relevant sectors was needed to clarify any questions participants may have had during the course, as they often wanted very specific answers that were relevant to specific roles and tasks in their day-to-day jobs.
  • It was also found that the range of understanding about mental health was quite varied.
  • The course was viewed as a beneficial learning experience and highlighted the need for training.



Police and Ambulance Services are often the frontline professionals helping those experiencing a mental health crisis, a theme evident in healthcare systems globally. Despite this growing trend within these professions, there is a lack of effective and appropriate training around mental health. Calls have been made internationally for police force training on mental health conditions, suicide prevention and interagency working, developed in partnership with experts. A full-day course was developed with an aim to train police and ambulance staff together. Educational and service leaders from the London Ambulance Service and Metropolitan Police Service were involved, alongside psychiatry trainees, in course design from the outset.


The simulation day involved 12 participants, six from each profession, using six scenarios based on three clinical cases each followed by a debrief. The course has been delivered on 20 occasions since its inception and piloting in January 2016, involving Police and Ambulance Services across London and the South East of England. A total of 196 participants have been training, consisting of 99 ambulance and 97 police staff.


Not only do these professional groups have different aims when meeting patients in crisis, they may have differing training, protocols and legal frameworks or case law. This was addressed successfully by having experts from police, ambulance, and clinical services to clarify and answer questions. Another challenge was to cover a broad range of understanding in the participants. The facilitators responded by iteratively adapting to participants’ needs while delivering the course and encouraging participants to share their experiences and expertise.


This is the first mental health simulation training course providing interprofessional training for Ambulance and Police staff. It was a beneficial learning experience for the simulation team and is highly relevant and needed in light of international pressures on emergency and clinical services regarding mental health crises.