The First Response Service, run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, launched only a month ago and gives those in mental health crisis the opportunity to get access help quickly, by calling the team on 111 and selecting option 2.
Specially-trained mental health staff answer the calls, providing advice, support and signposting to other services available.
The First Response Service, which operates 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, also links people directly with two new out-of-hours ‘safe-havens’ called the Sanctuary.
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. Both venues are open from 6pm to 1am, 365-days-a-year and access is by referral from the First Response Service only.
In the last month the Sanctuaries have received 126 referrals. Dr Caroline Meiser-Stedman, Clinical lead for the First Response Service said: “We are pleased that we have been able to help so many people already.
“By making the service accessible to patient referral we are removing further barriers to people getting help when they need it most. It is still very early days, but we are encouraged by the feedback we are getting from the people who are using the service.”
Sarah Hughes, CEO at Mind in Cambridgeshire, said: “The Sanctuary services have already proved invaluable to many local people experiencing mental health crises – who otherwise would have had nowhere to turn to other than A&E.
“There is no doubt as to the value of these services – most importantly to those in severe distress but also in terms of reducing the pressure on local emergency services.
On this basis we very much hope to see confirmation of funding beyond the current end date of March 2017.”
Dr Emma Tiffin, clinical lead for mental health, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group said: “It is great that these services have been able to help and support so many people with urgent mental health issues. Feeling you have somewhere to turn to if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis is so important.
“The services have been developed as part of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Vanguard programme – a national programme to improve emergency care – but if they continue to be this successful, they could be mirrored nationwide and provide support to even more people.”
Funding for the project is non-recurrent so it is vital that a sustainable service model is developed, which can be commissioned longer-term.