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Mental health helpline set to close after no renewal of funding

PUBLISHED: 15:34 05 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:41 05 June 2015

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

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

Archant

A charity boss says she is "shocked and extremely disappointed" after commissioners decided not to fund a mental health helpline which has had more than 6,000 calls since January.

Amanda Headley, chief executive of Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind, said she feared the decision would lead to people contacting other services such as A&E and their GPs, leading to increased pressure in those areas.

The clinical commissioning groups (CCG) said they acknowledged the good work of the helpline but said they were unable to commit sufficient funds for it to continue.

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 who are treated by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

Amanda Headley said: “The support line has proven to be a very successful pilot since January taking in excess of 6000 calls from services users who have described the connection they have with the project as a lifeline.

“The number of calls we receive continues to grow monthly and the support line not continuing past July is our worst fear, primarily for our service users who we are very concerned about losing this lifeline and support that they have become reliant on since January.

“The pilot has proven hugely successful in both reducing pressure and improving the mental health of the most vulnerable and at-risk people in Norfolk.

“We were therefore expecting that as the pilot has been so successful each CCG would agree to find the approximately £30,000 each from within the budget they have at their disposal to continue to fund this essential service until at least the end of this financial year.

“We know from what our service users tell us that the helpline has prevented them feeling the need to access other services like A & E, GPs and the NSFT services which contributes significant resource saving within the system.”

A spokesperson for North Norfolk, South Norfolk, and Norwich CCGs said: “The helpline was funded through one-off, non-recurrent national “mental health resilience” money.

“This was made available across the country to fund short-term schemes that ease pressures on the NHS over winter and the following months.

“It was always recognised there could be no guarantee the service would continue after July 31st.

“Mental health remains a key part of our commissioning plans and we are working closely with our colleagues which provide services to patients, to ensure that high quality care is available.”

Rebecca Driver, of Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG said the CCG was working with IC24 who deliver the out-of-hours 111 service to develop a mental health pathway for service users.

A spokesperson for West Norfolk CCG said patients in the West Norfolk area already have access to a 24-hour help line through the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team provided by the NSFT which will continue.

What do you think of the CCGs decision? Email our health correspondent at nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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