MPs concerned as health chiefs cut mental health helpline

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Photo: Steve Adams.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Photo: Steve Adams.

A Norwich MP has written to the minister responsible for mental health funding and the county's clinical commissioning groups after funding for a helpline was not renewed.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, has contacted Alistair Burt, the minister for community and social care, over her concerns about mental health funding.

The helpline was launched as a pilot in January by then care minister Norman Lamb MP and has had more than 6,000 calls from people treated by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust living in the Norfolk and Waveney area.

It is run by Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind.

Mr Lamb said he was 'horrified' at the decision and said it was another example of mental health losing out.

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He said he has also written to the CCGs and is taking up the case with ministers.

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

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It would cost £165,000 to keep the helpline open until March 2016.

Ms Smith said: 'This line is a serious help to many of my constituents and people across Norfolk.

'I want to know if the decision to stop it was taken with good evidence.

'I also want to understand why it was only planned from seasonal money in the first place, when surely the calls aren't only seasonal.

'I have also pressed the minister to respond on the future of such funding.

'It is important that mental health is given equal weighting to physical health, and funded accordingly.'

In her letter to the CCGs, Ms Smith said: 'I was concerned to learn that you anticipate discontinuing funding for the mental health crisis line run by Mind, based in my constituency and serving many of my own constituents and other across the county.

'I understand that the original funding related to pressures in winter and the following months.

'I also understand the need to pilot new activities.

'However, I would like to understand why the helpline's activity should ever have been regarded as temporary or seasonal.

'I would also be grateful to see the evaluation of its services which has led you to the current decision to discontinue them.'

A petition has been launched to lobby the CCGs to secure funding for the helpline.

•To sign the petition click here.

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