New emergency number for people with mental health problems

NHS

A NEW 111 helpline for people struggling with mental health disorders is to be made available across mid and south Essex.

The emergency phone line is expected to give patients quicker access to care and will be available to residents across Southend, Thurrock, Basildon, Brentwood and Castle Point.

When a member of the public phones the 111 line they will be given the option to be transferred to a 24-hour mental health team.

That team will then discuss the issues the caller is facing before deciding what kind of care they need.

This could mean transferring them to a critical care team who will provide a face to face response or referring them to community support services or alternative accommodation.

Speaking of when the service will be implemented, Mark Tebbs, director of commissioning at Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group, told the council’s health scrutiny committee: “We’ve got a number of steps to go through. We are at the stage where we’ve got a business case finalised and we now need to secure the funding.

“Once that is done there will be a six to nine-month mobilisation plan so this will mean recruiting staff – workforce is a major issue – but our ambition if all things going well, is the service will be up and running by next winter.

“Part of the mobilisation plan will be communication and engagement with the public in making sure the number is well known and publicised.”

Ian Wake, director of Public Health in Thurrock, added: “We have removed the need to go to a GP to get a service. You will directly get an assessment on the phone and within 24 hours, a dramatic improvement in terms of access to key critical community support for the most vulnerable in our society.”

The service will also be open to healthcare professionals and the emergency services who may need advice when dealing with certain patients.

It is being introduced as part of a wider transformation of adult mental health services in Thurrock. A survey by Healthwatch recently found 88 per cent of service users in the borough were unhappy with the care they have been given.

Among several other changes to mental health care will be new models of care which will see mental health services supporting physical health services, particularly for patients with long term illnesses.

There will also be efforts to avoid leaning heavily on medication, such as anti-depressants, and instead encouraging patients to take part in physical activities which Public Health say are just as effective.

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