Health experts add voice to our campaign to save vital helpline as petition reaches more than 4,000 signatures

Mind support line. Ben Marshall, team leader. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mind support line. Ben Marshall, team leader. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Two more health figures today add their opposition to the closure of a vital helpline which callers' say saves lives.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, and Brian Watkins, chairman of Norfolk County Council's health and wellbeing committee, both said the Norwich and Central Norfolk mental health helpline should continue to be funded.

Their comments reflect the views of more than 4,000 people who have signed our petition, set up to fight for the helpline's future.

The line costs just £120,000 a year to run, but neither of Norfolk's four clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) or the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are willing to provide the funds.

Yesterday health minister and Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman described the service as 'vital' and said the government expected the CCGs to give it their support.

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Healthwatch Norfolk boss Mr Stewart said he 'struggled to understand' the decision not to renew funding.

'At some point the rhetoric about parity of esteem for mental health services has to start to mean something and be seen to be translated into decisions about mental health provision,' Mr Stewart said.

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'Why, when demand is high and services are under strain would you choose to remove the funding for a good value, easy-to-access service?

Meanwhile county councillor Mr Watkins said he would be willing to bring all the relevant parties together to discuss the issue.

'I would certainly like the mental health support line to be kept because it performs such a vital role for those people with mental health concerns,' he said.

The CCGs say funding the service would mean making savings elsewhere, while Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health care, said it had no extra funds to support the service.

Click here to sign our online petition.

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