A pioneering mental health crisis service run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust is to continue after being awarded more than £3 million.
More than 10,700 calls have been received by the First Response Service in the first eight months since it was launched – resulting in a fall of 21 per cent in the number of people visiting local accident and emergency departments.
The further 12 months of funding has been given to the service by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Sustainability and Transformation Programme (STP) which has a key priority of improving community services for vulnerable people. The STP is a collaboration between all NHS organisations and local authorities in the area who are working together to improve health, wellbeing and experiences of care.
Dr Caroline Meiser-Stedman, consultant psychiatrist and clinical lead for the First Response Service, said: “We are delighted that the service has been granted further funding. The fact that the team has dealt with so many calls demonstrates there is a very clear need for people to be able to
access mental health help quickly and easily when they are in crisis.
“It has also meant they don’t have to go to accident and emergency departments which are often inappropriate for people with mental ill-health.
“We know there is still a long way to go to reduce the numbers of people presenting at accident and emergency departments and give them the correct support that they need, but the figures and the feedback we have had from people we have helped so far are very encouraging.”
In the six months before the First Response Service was launched (March to August 2016), accident and emergency departments were dealing with an average of about 764 people in mental health crisis per month. In the first seven months after the service was fully operational (October to April 2017), that number fell to 599 per month.
Overall, since the service began about 1,400 fewer people have attended Addenbrooke’s, Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough City hospitals. About half of those would have been admitted to a ward.
The First Response Service also links people directly with two Sanctuaries - out-of- hours ‘safe- havens’ - run by mental health charity Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind.
One Sanctuary is in Cambridge and the other is in Peterborough.
Open between 6pm and 1am, the Sanctuaries offer people in mental health crisis emotional and practical support. Referrals can be made only by a GP or another health professional or the police following initial discussions with the First Response Service.
The initial success of the project is being closely monitored by other health trusts that are keen to understand how similar services could be set up elsewhere in the country.
Dr Meiser-Stedman added: “We have received calls from health professionals who want to know about the First Response Service and what has worked well. We are holding an open day for several health organisations in the next few weeks so we can share what has worked well and how the service could be replicated in other parts of the country.”
People who are experiencing a mental health crisis in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can contact the First Response Service directly by calling the 111 NHS emergency helpline and selecting option 2.
The service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give people in crisis direct access to mental health advice and help them to avoid unnecessary visits to hospital.