Published on: Monday 8th April 2019

People living in Surrey and North East Hampshire can now access specialist mental health advice and support round the clock - with the launch of a new and improved NHS helpline.

The Mental Health Crisis Helpline is an NHS telephone service run by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Lines are manned by trained call handlers who support local residents who are concerned about themselves, or a friend or relative, in mental health crisis.

Previously an evening and weekend service, the Mental Health Crisis Helpline is now open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be accessed completely free of charge thanks to a new Freephone number,.

The helpline is also now supported by qualified mental health practitioners, such as a social worker, mental health nurse or an occupational therapist, who provide expert support and work closely with the Trust’s Home treatment Team to help adults of all ages access urgent face to face assessments if needed.

Additional call handlers have been recruited to increase capacity and all staff have completed a new training package which has been designed especially for the service. 

The service has also been co-designed with people who use services, carers and representatives from health and care organisations.

Larisa, a volunteer who uses her lived experience of mental ill-health to support others to recover and represents the voice of people who use services in Trust decisions, said: “It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to be in a mental health crisis. Emotional pain can be crippling. You feel like you’re in hell and in that moment you just want the pain to stop. Picking up the phone and calling a helpline can feel like your last hope so it is so important to hear a compassionate voice who will ask if you’re ok and listen to the feelings behind people’s words.

“You can’t teach or learn empathy so I took part in the recruitment panels to help the Trust choose people who have the right values as well as the right qualifications to support people in crisis - people who not only ask the right questions but speak to people in the right way. Being involved in this work has also helped my own recovery. It has made me feel proud and it has given me hope.”

Georgina Foulds, the NHS Trust’s Associate Director of Crisis Care, explains: “We have really listened to people’s feedback about our telephone support service and what would help people when they are feeling at their most vulnerable.

“People told us that it was confusing to know how to get the help they need and that having a helpline available round the clock could make all the difference. We have worked with people with lived experience and partners to develop and deliver a new audio training programme that re-creates real-life scenarios in order to really help us improve experiences.”

Diane Woods, Associate Director of Mental Health Commissioning at NHS Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans, buys and checks the mental health services across Surrey and NE Hants, said: “The launch of this service delivers on a joint mental health Crisis Care Concordat declaration that partners across Surrey and North East Hampshire made: to commit to improve the system of care and support so all people and their families who are in crisis because of a mental health condition are kept safe and helped to find the support they need – whatever the circumstances and time of day or night in which they first need help – and from which ever service they turn to first. It is a key step to ensure that people with mental health needs have the same access to services as people with physical health needs receive.”

The helpline service is offered by the same Single Point of Access team which from 1st April 2019 now receives and screens all referrals for adults aged 18-65 who need specialist mental health support. The Trust is now looking to create one team to receive mental health referrals for people of all ages in Surrey and North East Hampshire.

This extended service has been possible thanks to an increased investment in the service from Surrey and North East Hampshire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups of £1m per year, which was announced in Mental Health Awareness Week last May.

Contact

Call: 0800 915 4644 (24hrs)

Calls to the previous Mental Health Crisis Helpline number (0300 456 8342) will be answered by the same team but will be charged. Calls are charged at a local rate from UK landlines. Mobile costs may vary.

Acessibility for people with speech or hearing difficulties:

SMS Text: 07717 989 024  or Textphone: 18001 0800 915 4644. Find out more at www.ngts.org.uk 

Visit: www.sabp.nhs.uk/help