Health bosses close to launching new system for mental health helpline

The Mind and Wellbeing mental health helplines are to be merged to help mental health patients. Pict

The Mind and Wellbeing mental health helplines are to be merged to help mental health patients. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

An extra staff member will be added to take additional calls to the Mind mental health helpline, as health bosses hammer out the final details for a new service.

The helpline, which faced closure earlier this year due to a lack of funds, is being merged with the Wellbeing helpline as part of the region's mental health trust's Wellbeing Service after chiefs agreed to invest an uncon-firmed amount of money towards the service.

As part of the scheme the Wellbeing helpline, available to call-ers with less acute conditions than those who ring Mind's helpline, will have its opening hours extended.

Both helplines are to operate under the same number, with staff from either helpline able to answer both sets of callers.

Service users said the helpline continued to provide 'amazing care', but added that the line closing over-night at weekends was a big blow.

Amanda Headley, chief executive of mental health charity Norwich Mind, said the new helpline system would be fully up and running in June.

It comes after this newspaper launched its We Mind campaign, which gained the support of MPs and local councillors and called for the Mind helpline, described as 'life-saving' by service users, to stay open.

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Ms Headley said: 'We're in the process of making it all come together.

'We're having a number of meet-ings with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and the clinical commissioning groups.

'One of the things I'm trying to clarify is whether the additional funding to integrate with the Wellbeing line will be for one or five years.'

She plans to work with staff at Mind nationally to find a way to better evaluate the impact of the helpline, in order to demonstrate its

importance in the local NHS.

The helpline currently runs from 4pm-midnight between Mondays and Fridays, and 10am-midnight at the weekend.

While the helpline will not be open 24/7, Ms Headley said it was hoped more calls from Mind helpline patients would be picked up by staff from the Wellbeing helpline, because that line is less busy in the evenings.

She said the helpline would always be staffed by two people and added the charity would be looking for volunteers to help with the service.

'We would love a 24/7 service but given the financial constraints in the system, what we have ended up with is as good as we

hoped,' Ms Headley added.

Service user Harriet Powell, of Norwich, said: 'My triggers are at the weekend so I have noticed that loss of support.

'But when I get through to them they are friendly and they know me so they access my notes which is a big help.'

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