People living in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire will now be able to access a new mental health team when they dial 111.
The new pilot scheme is being launched today (Monday, September 19) by mental health and community care provider Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT).
Also today, Mind in Cambridgeshire, working closely with CPFT, is opening a second “safe-haven” in Peterborough for those experiencing a mental health crisis. The organisation successfully launched the first Sanctuary in Cambridge, in April this year.
The moves are part of the Urgent and Emergency Care Vanguard programme in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
NHS organisations - including Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group - together with local authorities, Cambridgeshire police and representatives from the third sector have also been involved in setting up the pilot projects, which aim to improve the way urgent mental health care is delivered and reduce the pressure on acute hospitals.
The extension of the 111 service will mean callers who are experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to dial the NHS urgent medical advice number, and by choosing ‘option 2’ will be put through to a member of CPFT’s new First Response Service.
Specially-trained mental health staff will speak to callers and discuss with them their mental health care needs instead of them having to go to accident and emergency departments of local acute hospitals.
Elaine Young, Vanguard programme lead for CPFT, said: “We think this a really important step forward to improve care for those who are suffering mental health issues. Until now most people in mental health crisis will have had to go to A&E departments to try and get help.
“If people have physically harmed themselves then A&E is the right place to go. But more often people just want someone to talk to and advice on what help is available and which services they can access.
“Overall we are aiming to give mental health crisis parity of esteem by making help more easily accessible and available as well as easing pressure on A&E departments.”
The launch of the First Response Service, which will operate 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, links directly to two out-of-hours ‘safe-havens’ for people experiencing mental health crisis – the second of which opens in Peterborough today.
Run by mental health charity Mind In Cambridgeshire, and supported by Peterborough and Fenland Mind, the Sanctuaries offer people somewhere to go where they can access emotional and practical support rather than having to attend hospital.
When people call the First Response Service, via 111, being given the opportunity to be referred to one of the Sanctuaries may be one of the options offered to them as part of the support available.
Both venues are open from 6pm to 1am, 365-days-a-year and access is by referral from the First Response Service only. Since it opened in April, 175 referrals have been made to the Cambridge Sanctuary.
Lynn Mars, director of services at Mind in Cambridgeshire, said: “These new initiatives represent vital improvements in the services available for those in crisis.
“The Sanctuary in Cambridge has demonstrated the value of having a purpose-designed safe haven, where people can go for emotional and practical support.
“We are delighted that this service is now being extended into Peterborough and that individuals can now access this vital support directly, via the 111 service, rather than having to be referred into it by a professional.”
Dr Emma Tiffin of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group said: “These projects have the potential to be a really vital step forward in helping those with mental ill-health.
“Overall, Vanguard is a national programme to improve emergency care. If successful, the projects trialled in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough could be mirrored nationwide.”
Funding for the project is non-recurrent so it is vital that a sustainable service model is developed, which can be commissioned longer-term.