On Friday 17 April a new mental health initiative is being launched to ease the pressure facing emergency services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) staff will be supported by mental health clinicians from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) and Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) with NHS111 calls and frontline response.
Working on a rota basis, the mental health clinicians will respond to NHS111 calls from people experiencing physical health needs or requiring a mental health crisis response, as well as providing advice to paramedics attending mental health related calls to help reduce unnecessary transfers to emergency departments.
Urgent care pathways lead at TEWV Helen Embleton, who is currently volunteering on the mental health support service rota alongside her Trust role, said: “The current coronavirus situation has increased the demand placed on emergency services.’
“As part of the Integrated Care System (ICS) we have worked alongside NEAS colleagues and other NHS mental health providers and commissioners in the region to develop a pragmatic and prompt solution to address this and to ensure those in mental distress are able to easily access the help they need.’
“This initiative supports work within the Trust to make sure people can directly access mental health support and learning from this will inform longer term service developments.’
“We are excited to implement this new way of working which will benefit those experiencing mental health difficulties in the region. ‘
“Over the last couple of years we have been focussing on delivering a responsive mental health crisis service and this is an excellent example of how agencies can work together to support one another and improve pathways for people who need support and advice to manage their mental health and wellbeing at this difficult time.”
NEAS mental health lead Stephen Down said: “We anticipate that as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, the number of patients experiencing anxiety and distress is likely to increase.’
“To help people access the right help, the mental health support service will offer a listening ear and signposting provision to those in distress.’
“By providing the right support at the right time, we hope to save people from having to be conveyed to accident and emergency departments or waiting days to see their doctor.’
“We also aim to offer support and guidance to staff on scene with people who may need additional emotional support at this very difficult time, hopefully reducing the need to convey those people to hospital.”
Mental health programme director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS), Gail Kay added: “It has never been more important for us to come together as healthcare providers to support each other and ensure the people requiring support and advice to manage their mental health and wellbeing receive the best possible response.”