Prime Minister visits Aldershot Safe Haven

Prime Minister Theresa May has visited our Safe Haven in Aldershot as part of the Government's announcement to transform mental health support in the country.

Prime Minister Theresa May visited our Safe Haven partnership service in Aldershot on Monday 9th January, the same day that the government announced plans to transform mental health support across the country.

The Prime Minister announced the package of reforms to improve mental health support at every stage of a person’s life throughout society - including schools, workplaces and communities.

Mrs May said: “For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the attitudes we hold and the values we share.

“I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.”

Part of the measures to improve mental health support include funding to find alternatives to hospital to support people in the community. The Prime Minister recognised that seeing a GP or going to A&E may not always be the right intervention for many people with mental ill-health. The government has pledged to build on its £15m investment to provide and promote new models of community-based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics. The initial £15m investment led to 88 new places of safety being created and the government now plans to spend up to a further £15m to build on this success.

The Safe Haven at the Wellbeing Centre in Aldershot, is one such crisis café which has gone from strength to strength since it opened on March 31, 2014. The service, which provides out-of-hours support to people experiencing, or are on the verge of, mental health crisis, allows individuals to drop in without an appointment. 

Since the Aldershot Safe Haven opened in 2014, the numbers of people using Accident and Emergency at the local acute hospital suffering a mental health crisis has remained the same – a direct contrast to the increasing demand experienced nationally. Many people have said they attended the Safe Haven as an alternative to visiting A&E while acute mental health admissions from the service’s catchment area fell by a third in the first three months after opening, helping people to receive the support they need as close to their home as possible.

Funded by NHS North East Hampshire and Farnham Clinical Commissioning Group and Hampshire County Council, the Aldershot Safe Haven (adults) is delivered by our Trust, mcch and Catalyst - charities providing wellbeing support in Surrey and Hampshire.

During her visit Prime Minister Theresa May talked with staff and people who have used the service, many of whom have reported that the Safe Haven has stopped them from attending A&E when they have been experiencing a mental health crisis. Some even revealed that, for them, the support they have received from the Safe Haven has possibly saved their life.

Andy Erskine, Director of Mental Health and Social Care at our Trust, said: “It is fantastic news to hear that the government has pledged to invest an extra £15m in mental health crisis cafes like our Aldershot Safe Haven.

“We have received a huge amount of positive feedback from local residents, carers, and from GPs who have welcomed this safe and compassionate alternative to A&E.

"We believe that it is working in collaboration with individuals, carers and other organisations that has made the service such as success.

“Last year we helped set up five further Safe Havens across Surrey and initial research has shown that these services saw over 4,000 visits in seven months, generating an estimated £1.2m savings in A&E and psychiatric liaison services.

“Thousands of people in Surrey and NE Hants have already benefitted from this approach and we’re delighted this is now being supported by national policy to benefit people who are struggling to cope nationwide.”

More information the Safe Havens in Surrey and Aldershot can be found here