First glimpse at plans for crisis hubs aimed at tackling mental health bed shortage

Mental health. Pictured: A young man experiencing depression sits by a window. Picture: Newscast Onl

Mental health. Pictured: A young man experiencing depression sits by a window. Picture: Newscast Online - Credit: Newscast Online

The first details of mental wellbeing hubs - also known as crisis cafes - designed to tackle a shortage of mental health beds in the region have been revealed.

Papers put before the governing bodies of Norwich, north and south Norfolk clinical commissioning groups this week put meat on the bones of plans, which were first revealed in a beds review carried out by the region's mental health trust earlier this year.

In Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) latest inspection report regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said there were still not enough beds. But the review said with the introduction of the crisis hubs the number they have could be sufficient. It recommended instead of introducing new beds to stem the increasing number of people sent to private facilities or outside of Norfolk and Suffolk, additional step-down beds and crisis cafes could ease the pressure.

Now rebranded as mental wellbeing hubs, members of the CCGs' governing bodies voted on Tuesday to push ahead with plans and start the procurement process for the first Norwich hub.

CCG governing body papers said: 'During the day the hub would include a cafe to support those who feel socially isolated and would aim to help de-stigmatise mental health for those people using this feature. The cafe should be open to the public. We envisage there being support for a range of mental health problems and for episodes of mental distress.

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'During the evening the hub would offer a suitable and safe environment for people experiencing mental ill-health and mental distress. It would providing practical and emotional support, which could be used as an alternative to admission if appropriate. The evening hub would work closely with 111, police, ambulance and A&E to support people, where the hub would be a more appropriate venue.'

It was also envisaged professional support services from the public and voluntary sector would be based there, potentially including the mental health phone support line, the crisis resolution home team and adult social workers.

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In Lambeth, where the scheme is already in place, the CCG reported a 43pc reduction in referrals to the mental health trust.

The decision comes after some push back from campaigners and the voluntary sector over initial plans to run a pilot before the full service was put out to procurement.

The pilot, which would last more than a year, would be undertaken by Mind - which currently delivers the Wellbeing Service in partnership with NSFT and also provide the mental health support line.

A vacant Norwich City Council building was identified as a potential venue. However, CCG papers said although the process had been accepted by health chiefs they 'also listened to feedback [...] where there were concerns that a pilot before an open procurement/competitive tender might disadvantage other voluntary sector providers'.

Now, commissioners decided procurement will take place first and 'having been able to explore a pilot model in depth, believe this is the right approach'.

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