A scheme which put response vehicles on the road for people in mental health crisis has been expanded after a pilot saw hundreds helped.

More than 2,800 people have been supported by two response vehicles, dubbed mental health cars, since November 2021 when the scheme was launched.

Now, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust has confirmed the scheme is expanding with the addition of three new cars.

The bespoke Mercedes vehicles, which will serve Norfolk and Waveney and mid and south Essex, have been designed specifically to cater to mental health needs.

The features include fewer fluorescent markings than other emergency vehicles and with a "less clinical interior" to try and help put the mind of patients at ease.

Paul Gates, deputy clinical director for EEAST, said: "The three new vehicles are the first of 12 that will increase capacity for EEAST, ensuring patients with urgent and emergency mental health needs get specialist care and support.

"These vehicles are designed to have soothing lighting and a comfortable interior that can help calm people experiencing mental health crisis."

The new vehicles are set to be rolled out across the next four months, building on the previous pilot which was launched in 2021.

Since then, the teams have responded to 2,829 patients in need in Norfolk and Waveney.

In these scenarios, nine out of 10 patients (90pc) were able to be cared for without needing to be taken to an emergency department - helping to ease the strain on hospitals. 

However, funding restraints will mean they will not be able to operate on a 24/7 basis.

Instead, each team will be able to provide coverage for 12 hours a day, with operating times set by "peak times" for such emergencies.

Currently, the service operates between 2pm and 2am, seven days a week.