NHS Digital has launched a new service allowing emergency medical personnel to pull information from shared care records when called to a mental health patient in distress.

The National Record Locator Service enables paramedics and mental health nurses to find out whether the patient they are treating has a mental health crisis plan, by a means of helping inform their treatment.

In doing so, medical responders can decide whether the patient should be transported to a more appropriate care setting than A&E, or direct them to community-based care as indicated in the patient’s crisis plan.

It is hoped the service will improve the treatment of mental health patients by directing them to more appropriate care setting when possible. It is also anticipated to improve the safety of patients and staff and reduce duplicate costs within A&E departments and mental health services.

The locator service has been launched in beta as of 27 November. The first use-case partners will be North West, North East, Yorkshire and London Ambulance Services – working with their local mental health trusts; Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Humber NHS Foundation Trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

The North West trusts will be connected to the record locator service via their shared care record systems, the Lancashire Person Record Exchange Service (Tiani Spirit) and the Cheshire Care Record (Graphnet).

Dr Gareth Thomas, who leads the Integrating Care Programme at NHS Digital, called the initiative “a brilliant example of new technology meeting the demands of a modern and forward-thinking NHS.”

He added: “The record locator represents a fantastic opportunity for health and social care information to be available at the fingertips of frontline health and care staff, wherever they happen to be.

“The service will integrate information right across the sector and will allow organisations to collaborate more closely. Direct access to records at the point of care delivery will bring huge benefit for patients, front line teams, and the wider NHS.”

While the initial focus of the National Locator Service will be mental health, NHS Digital said the scope of the service would “evolve over time” after the first use cases demonstrated their capability.

Future use-cases include end of life care, child health, maternity and cancer.

The next phase of development will see integration expanded to other Local Health and Care Record Exemplars (LHCREs), ahead of an NHS-wide roll-out.

Hadleigh Stollar, Integrating Care Programme manager at NHS Digital, said: “This is a critical milestone in the journey towards patient centred, integrated care enabled through a nationally supported and agnostic capability.

“Fundamental to this success has been the outstanding collaboration between NHS Trusts, system suppliers and the dedicated team at NHS Digital and I am personally grateful to everyone who has worked tirelessly to make this a reality”.