The service aims to connect every patient to the most appropriate mental health professional
“This new Freephone number means people will be able to access practical advice and emotional support from qualified nursing staff and where appropriate, access to the right services in a more timely way. This approach will mean we are better able to meet the varied needs of anyone trying to access mental health support." Caroline Donovan, chief executive at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust,
Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust has launched a Freephone-based mental health service that people can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There will be two separate call centres. One, at the Avondale Unit, Royal Preston Hospital, will be available to the 140,000 residents in Central and West Lancashire. The other centre, serving half a million residents across East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, will be based at the Mount, Accrington. Research shows the number of recorded mental illnesses in Blackburn with Darwen is higher than the England average.
Call handlers and mental health practitioners will receive calls from patients, service users, families and carers. They will then arrange for patients to receive support directly over the phone or to have an appointment with a mental health practitioner, either in their own home, their local GP practice or another mutually agreed location. The handlers will also share information about other services if they are more appropriate.
Caroline Donovan, chief executive at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, described the initiative as a “major improvement for the residents of Central and West Lancashire who need to access help and support from our mental health services.” She added: “This new Freephone number means people will be able to access practical advice and emotional support from qualified nursing staff and where appropriate, access to the right services in a more timely way. This approach will mean we are better able to meet the varied needs of anyone trying to access mental health support. Whether it be an immediate response, routine appointment booking or even advice on how to access additional information, people will be able to call one phone number and receive the response they need.”
The trust worked with a number of stakeholders, including GPs, MPs and representatives from the voluntary sector to develop this new approach.
The new services form part of a wider programme to transform access to mental health services in England.
Residents in Central and West Lancashire can contact the service on 0800 013 0708, while the number for residents in East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen is 0800 013 0707.
Demand for mental health services is soaring, yet all too often people are unable to access mental health support when they need it. Mental health crises don’t always happen during the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday, so a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service is a major step in the right direction – provided the service then follows through with the support that patients need. If the service is successful, it could prove a model for other NHS trusts to follow in future. There is however the potential for long wait times – and holding queues for telephone services and a poor user experience could exacerbate an acute mental health concern.