Ambulances are being forced to take people with mental health problems to A&E because of a lack of alternatives.

London Ambulance Service chief executive Garrett Emmerson made the admission during a London Assembly health committee meeting yesterday.

Mr Emmerson was quizzed by assembly member Onkar Sahota about the ambulance service’s relationships with mental health services in the capital to see if these were affecting how it did its job.

Mr Emmerson revealed that because of a lack of services for people with mental health issues, people who call an ambulance are often taken to A&E instead of a mental health facility.

He said: “We need to have positive relationships with mental health trusts in London and we are working hard to do more.

“This is something we have struggled with in the past, but I think is changing.”

Mr Emmerson said that having mental health nurses in ambulance control rooms to provide advice to ambulance crews on the ground was helping to treat patients who were suffering from mental health related emergencies better.

He also said “mental health crisis cafes” were being developed as an alternative to sending people to A&E.

Mr Emmerson added: “I think there are a lot of opportunities and potential to change this problem and having more services for people with mental health problems will make a big difference to the number of other people we can see in the future.”

Having regular meetings with the chairman of London’s mental health trusts is also helping patients with mental health issues to be directed to the correct services instead of being taken straight to A&E, said Mr Emmerson.

Assembly members were also reassured that the LAS was performing well.

In 2015 the LAS was put under special measures but was brought out of it at the start of 2018 and is now the third highest performing out of all ambulance trusts in the UK.

Heather Lawrence, chairman of the LAS NHS Trust Board said: “We’re not a cause of concern to the regulators.

“We want to get key messages out our ambulances are out on the streets all day because they are out going from call to call so when you do need use we are just round the corner.”