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Country’s ‘first’ urgent mental health helpline launched in Notts

A new urgent mental health helpline – thought to be the first in the country – has been launched in Nottinghamshire.

GPs will use the Urgent Medical Mental Health Line to seek advice from a consultant psychiatrist when a patient requiring urgent support comes to them for help.
The service, launched by Nottinghamshire Health NHS Foundation Trust on Monday (May 8), is for patients aged 18 to 65 who are acutely unwell, but not at the point of crisis, and cannot wait for a routine appointment with mental health professionals.
A consultant psychiatrist will be on-hand to take calls from GPs from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.
If the consultant psychiatrist is unable to deal with queries over the phone, he or she will arrange for the patient to be seen by a clinician in a community setting within three working days.
Nottinghamshire GPs are able to access a similar service for patients requiring general healthcare support, but this is the first time that they have been able to access support for those experiencing ill mental health.The service has been developed by the trust in partnership with the county’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
It has so far been launched in all Nottinghamshire CCG areas apart from NHS Nottingham City, which will take up the helpline in September.
The launch of the helpline comes after a damning report by patient watchdog Healthwatch Nottingham and Nottinghamshire in October last year said they found services are not there for patients with mental health problems, and some people trying to access them felt unsupported and unsafe.
Dr Chris Schofield is leading on the project for Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which supports around 11,000 adult mental health patients.
He told The Post the helpline was developed because the trust had identified a gap in a the service.
Dr Schofield said: “If you’ve got a physical health problem you can either go to the emergency department or there are urgent care centres.”If you look at mental health, there’s emergency provisions and crisis teams. The other offer really is routine appointments so there’s a big urgent gap there. Patients and staff want to see people before they deteriorate.”If you’re starting to deteriorate in your mental health, you sort of know. If you can get some help quickly that’s what people are after and that’s what we want to do as well, but there was a big gap – and that’s not a Nottinghamshire specific thing, it’s across the country.”
Dr Nicholas Page, a GP at Castle Healthcare Practice in West Bridgford, thinks the helpline will be well used.
He said: “We’ve got urgent services like the crisis team where the action really is this day or the following day. The only other option is to refer into community mental health teams, and that might take quite a bit longer.
“For most GPs if you can just get access to a consultant colleague and discuss the patient, most of the time a little bit of advice just helps that management within primary care for a couple of days.
“For somebody who is in trouble, if they know they have got an appointment in 36 hours, that makes a big difference to them. It’s quite a big change.”
Bevan Dolan, suicide crisis project worker at Nottingham-based self-harm support charity Harmless, has welcomed news of the new service.
He said: “I think it is fantastic that there has been a service made specifically for mental health so that things don’t reach the point of mental health crisis.”It is fantastic that that sort of preventative approach for people who don’t quite reach the threshold of crisis, but they can still seek some kind of support. I think that’s incredible.”
Alison Cobb, senior policy and campaigns officer at national mental health charity Mind, is keen to see what kind of impact the helpline has.
She said: “We welcome the launch of Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s mental health line. Too often people with mental health problems don’t get the support they need, and may end up reaching crisis point if they’re left waiting for care.
“GPs are usually the first point of call for people struggling with their mental health, so being able to get advice from consultant psychiatrists and an urgent appointment for their patient if necessary, is a positive thing.
“We look forward to seeing the results of this service and whether it could be rolled out to other parts of the country. As well as having access to specialist advice, it’s essential that trainee and qualified GPs and other primary care staff are given structured training in mental health, as currently less than half of trainee GPs undertake training in a mental health setting.”

Source Nottingham Post