Mental health helpline loss would leave “no suitable alternatives” to provide similar response to service-users

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

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

Three days after health commissioners explained why there is no funding available for the Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind Support Line, charity boss Amanda Headley outlines the case for the helpline to be saved.

The Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind support line has been identified as being an important component of a good mental health service for many years – initially planned as part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust's (NSFT) redesign of mental health services more than five years ago.

NSFT, supported by commissioners, specifically requested that Norwich Mind research good practice models for a telephone helpline as part of the work to look at reducing the number of people admitted to acute mental health beds.

Shortly after Norwich Mind researched good practice across the country and developed a model that was felt to be appropriate for Norfolk, an opportunity arrived via National Resilience Funding to pilot whether the helpline would indeed deliver the outcomes expected – in particular taking pressures off other health agencies and the clinical teams at the NSFT.

The service was only available for the most unwell people who were already in receipt of NSFT services or those discharged within the year.

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It operates in an integrated way with the NSFT teams and that is one of the reasons it works so well - whereas other alternatives mentioned do not to the same extent (for example the Samaritans or A&E).

The model has worked well, and has had good partnership with NSFT's clinical teams, enabling them to focus their more skilled and pressured clinical response on those requiring a more urgent response, while our helpline provides the skilled emotional support for those still in emotional need.

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At this stage Norwich Mind are working toward the closure of the support line at the end of this month.

It is with great regret that Norwich Mind have had to watch from the sidelines while some of the most vulnerable people within the mental health service have felt they have had no option than to resort to a national petition and to the media in order for them to have their voice heard.

Norwich Mind are working hard with NSFT's clinical teams to enable additional support from them for those we are most concerned will be adversely affected by the closure.

However, these teams are already under immense pressure and they are not available after normal working hours or over the weekend when the people say they need the helpline the most.

The urgent and emergency services do not have the time nor the remit to support people who are not requiring an urgent clinical response.

There are no suitable alternatives that provide the response the support line provides – and this should be acknowledged.

See today's Eastern Daily Press newspaper for more on this story.

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