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Publication Date: 30/11/2017 

Pilot helping to reduce distress 

Minister visits Hairmyres to hear about ground breaking programme 


The Minister met staff to hear more about DBI. (l-r) Helen Macleod, staff nurse: Lise Axford, senior nurse; Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt; Rachel Lees, charge nurse; Inspector Julie Robertson, Police Scotland. 

The Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt visited University Hospital Hairmyres to hear about a ground breaking pilot project which is reducing levels of distress.

The Distress Brief Intervention Programme (DBI) is the first programme of its kind in the world which provides a time limited and supportive problem solving contact with an individual who presents at emergency services in a state of distress.

While still in its early stages, DBI has more than halved recorded levels of distress among those who have taken up the offer of the DBI support.

Many who present at emergency services often describe feelings of low mood, stress and anxiety and the two-level DBI approach sees front line emergency staff offer a compassionate response to the individual and ask if they would like to be contacted by a level 2 service within 24 hours to offer further face-to-face support.

Ultimately it aims to enable people to manage their immediate and future distress more effectively.

Dr Linda Findlay, Lanarkshire lead for the DBI pilot, said: “We’re delighted with the findings from this pilot so far.

“100 per cent of those referred for support were contacted within 24 hours, with almost 70 per cent of the people who received the level 1 support, taking up the offer of the level 2 support.

“Of those, 85 per cent successfully completed the programme with a finalised distress management plan agreed.

“We also asked people to rate their distress level when they came in – with 10 being high and 0 low – and it averaged at 7.

“On completion, the average had more than halved to 3.”

The Minister with DBI, ED and Hairmyres staff

Lise Axford, senior charge nurse at University Hospital Hairmyres emergency department said: “People can often present at the emergency department with an emotional pain which does not require a further emergency service response.

“It can be caused by factors such as relationship issues, loneliness, housing or financial worries, substance misuse and a general struggle to cope with life’s challenges.

“Evidence shows these situations don’t always require specialist clinical mental health services, but they do need person centred, practical support, quickly.

“DBI now addresses this gap and while staff can and still do refer individuals who require specialist mental health and addiction services, they now also have this additional more appropriate option available to them for those who need it.

“The programme has also been very well received by the staff involved – who have all received DBI training developed by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health & Wellbeing – as they now feel they can refer people to more appropriate support.”

The pilot programme is being funded by the Scottish Government and will run initially until March 2021 and will be independently evaluated thereafter.

Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt, said: “I am pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Lanarkshire area pilot of the DBI.

“This innovative initiative is about equipping people with skills and support to manage their own health and to prevent future crisis.

“It supports our broader aim, as set out in our Mental Health Strategy, to intervene early when people feel they need additional support to help them with a range of problems which might be affecting their mental health and wellbeing.”

As well as emergency departments, the DBI approach will also be tested by frontline Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Services and primary care, including out of hours, staff.

Kevin O’Neill national DBI programme manager, said: “The DBI programme has seen really impressive levels of joint working across front-line services with the shared goal of developing connected, compassionate support for people presenting in distress.

“The learning from the control testing in Lanarkshire is now supporting DBI to be implemented in the other three partnership test sites in Aberdeen, Inverness and Scottish Borders over the coming months.”