Mental health crisis teams get new investment

Author: Mark Gould

New investment has been announced to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan’s promise that every mental health crisis team in England will offer round the clock support. At present less than half the teams offer 24/7 services.

More than £200m of national funding has been allocated to local areas to transform urgent and emergency mental health care through a network of services over the next two years.

Mental health crisis teams will be strengthened and new alternative forms of provision such as safe havens and crisis cafes will open across the country as part of the NHS Long Term Plan which has also created a new fund for local mental health services worth at least £2.3 billion each year by 2023/24.

Some areas have already benefited from investment in crisis support. Around £3m has been spent across Hampshire and Isle of Wight to ensure round the clock access to mental health crisis care through NHS 111. Safe havens have been set up across Portsmouth and south east Hampshire with substance misuse specialists and peer support workers.

In Northamptonshire a new crisis house in the north of the county, building on the success of the one south of the patch, provides a homely environment where people can stay for 2-5 days as an alternative to admission to a psychiatric inpatient ward.

The county has also created a clear single point of access for all mental health care which will include access to crisis care staff, social care, psychological therapies and voluntary sector support.

And across North Central London new community services have been designed to be more suitable to the mental health needs of young black men in view of the disproportionate numbers detained under the Mental Health Act. Specific mental health crisis services are being tailored to older people and their carers building on success of the leading service in Camden and Islington.

The money will also boost the roll out of new or expanded crisis services such as safe havens, crisis cafes and crisis houses in every region. These services are usually provided by the voluntary sector or NHS and tend to be rated highly by patients – helping people whose needs might be escalating to crisis point. Another £140m will bolster these services further from 2021 onwards.

While the crisis teams offer urgent and emergency mental health support in the community or intensive mental health treatment at home, studies have also shown that when fully staffed and operating 24/7, they improve patient experience and free up resources by providing an alternative to A&E or inpatient admission.

Every local health service has signed up to having round the clock community mental health crisis service by 2021 – with people able to self-refer to in the same way they can for urgent physical health care – mostly over the phone but also online or by simply dropping in.

Friends, families and other professionals who may be supporting people experiencing a mental health crisis, such as police and ambulance staff will also be able to access the teams 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

NHS crisis teams include mental health professionals, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and support workers. They provide care at home for people experiencing a mental health crisis who might otherwise be hospitalised for example due to psychosis, self-harm or suicidal feelings.

The teams can administer medication, provide practical support, for example with money or housing and or help plan care prevent a crisis happening in the future.

Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for the NHS said: “Rolling these services out in every part of the country will help to address some of the most pressing inequalities in access to urgent care that people with mental health needs have experienced.

“This investment in life changing services will also pave the way for the flagship long-term plan ambition to make NHS 111 the single universal point of access for urgent mental health care by 2024.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Mental Health, chief constable Mark Collins said: “The police service is responding to increased levels of demand caused by incidents related to mental health, which are not crime related. Any strengthening for mental health provision, enabling practitioners to offer appropriate care and support to those in mental health crisis is welcome. This should ease the pressure on our people and ensure those in mental health crisis have more direct access to treatment in line with their care needs.

“There is a well-established, and growing dialogue between partners to build lasting support networks between emergency services and we will work closely with the NHS and others to ensure this continues at pace.”

The new investment in crisis alternative services will mean employment of thousands more peer support workers with lived experience of using mental health services.

They will also require a focus on addressing historical inequalities in experience of mental health care such as those faced by young black men or people with substance use problems.