Fears over future of mental health helpline which has ‘huge demand’

Amanda Headley, chief executive of Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind.

Amanda Headley, chief executive of Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind. - Credit: Archant

Additional pressure could be piled on health and emergency services if funding for a mental health helpline is not renewed, a charity boss has warned.

Amanda Headley, chief executive of Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind, said she was 'extremely concerned' at the thought that a helpline run by the charity for patients treated by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) may cease to operate.

The helpline, a six-month pilot programme launched in January, provides 24-hour advice and support seven days per week to patients from Norfolk and Waveney.

Its funding expires shortly and the five clinical commissioning groups in Norfolk will decide by Friday whether or not funding will be continued.

The helpline has had more than 6,000 calls and Amanda Headley said the 'huge demand' was growing.

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She said: 'Service users report significant improvements in their mental health and developing their own coping strategies, as well as a very positive experience in that they have felt listened to and supported.

'We are extremely concerned at the thought that the helpline may not secure continued funding.

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'The pilot established in January has clearly shown how effective it has been in reducing considerable pressure from the NSFT crisis services, as well as providing alternatives for people in crisis to call our helpline rather than go to their GP, A&E or calling the emergency services.

'The demand has been much greater than expected.

'If we don't get the funding, it could have a knock-on effect on other services as we know from the patients that they would phone their GPs, the trust, or police or ambulance for help.'

She said it would cost the five CCGs £165,000 to keep the helpline going until March 2016.

A spokesperson for the CCGs said they were in the process of reviewing the commissioning of the Mental Health Support Line pilot, which was initially funded through a non-recurrent national funding programme.

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