Key messages

  • The Protocol for transport of people with mental illness provides information about the transportation of people with mental illness.
  • In an emergency an ambulance should be called.
  • In some cases a mental health clinician or a police escort will be required.

The Protocol for transport of people with mental illness provides advice for transporting people the least restrictive way possible, and it also provides information about transport options.

It covers the use of emergency ambulances, non-emergency patient transport (NEPT) and police assistance.

Transport options

If a person needs transport to or from a designated mental health service or any other place, options include:

  • emergency ambulance
  • non-emergency patient transport
  • private vehicle
  • taxi
  • mental health service vehicle.

The decision about what transport is appropriate should be based on

  • the person’s mental and/or physical state
  • the person’s immediate treatment needs to prevent serious deterioration in their physical or mental health, or serious harm to the person or to another person
  • the likely effect on the person of the proposed mode of transport
  • the availability of modes of transport, including private and NEPT vehicles
  • the distance to be travelled
  • the person’s need for support and supervision during travel, including any safety issues
  • the expressed preferences of the person and/or their family or carer.

Reasonable efforts should be made to help the person to make or participate in decisions about their transport and to transport them in the least restrictive manner possible.

Before transport

Before arranging transport, the receiving designated mental health service should be contacted to make arrangements for the person to be received at the service.

In an emergency

In an emergency an ambulance should be called by phoning 000 and requesting ‘ambulance’.

The 000 call takers ask a series of questions to determine urgency.

If a mental health practitioner is concerned about the impact of any delays on the person’s clinical condition, they should ask to speak to the Ambulance Victoria clinician.

The person requesting the ambulance should be present when the ambulance arrives so that a handover can be provided, the person who is transported is not left alone, and the family or carers can be debriefed if needed.

Escorts may be required

In some instances Ambulance Victoria may require a mental health practitioner to accompany the person.

In this situation, roles and responsibilities during transport must be clearly specified and agreed between the parties in advance. Consider whether a family member, carer or friend should accompany the person.

Police powers

Under s. 351 of the Mental Health Act 2014, police may apprehend a person who appears to have mental illness to prevent serious and imminent harm to the person or others.

Police may request an ambulance to transport the person to a designated mental health service.

Police must maintain custody of a person apprehended under s. 351, even if an ambulance provides the transport.

Police maintain custody of the person until the person is made subject to an assessment order, or is transferred into the care of the service for examination to determine whether to make an assessment order.

The ambulance may leave after providing a clinical handover.

Police assistance

Police involvement in transporting a person with mental illness is appropriate:

  • if the person is in police custody (including apprehended under s. 351 of the Act)
  • to prevent serious harm to the person or to another person.

Police involvement can take several forms:

  • accompanying the person in another vehicle (such as an ambulance or mental health service vehicle)
  • escorting another vehicle (such as an ambulance or mental health service vehicle)
  • conveying the person in a police vehicle, after all other transport options have been considered and found to be unsuitable.

If a carer or mental health practitioner wishes to request both police involvement and ambulance attendance in an emergency, they should contact both the police and ambulance services (with separate 000 calls) and arrange to meet at a common location.

The decision by a paramedic or mental health practitioner to request police involvement should reflect a clinical risk assessment of the person’s current and previous known risk behaviours, and the objective of providing safe transport in the least restrictive manner possible.

Police will determine the most appropriate level of their involvement for a person in their custody.