Mental health phonelines run by the NHS have answered around three million calls during the pandemic since being fast-tracked a year ago.
The dedicated 24/7 NHS mental health crisis helplines were fast-tracked four years earlier than planned to ensure support could be provided during the pandemic.
The lines are staffed by mental health professionals who can refer people to local urgent, acute and routine mental health services. This may include phone and video consultations, as well as urgent face-to-face assessments where necessary.
Most callers are able to receive treatment over the phone or can be referred to a face to face assessment and fewer than 2% of the calls have resulted in an A&E attendance or a blue light response from ambulance or police.
The helplines have been set up by the 54 mental health trusts across England and some have now been running for over a year, with three million calls between May 2020 and May this year.
At the start of the pandemic Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) set up a 24/7, all-ages helpline within a week, staffed by experienced mental health practitioners from a range of services, many of whom were shielding themselves but supported to work from home.
In their first ten days, over 1,500 calls were received, and during the height of the pandemic the call handlers received almost 550 calls per day.
Since 20 March 2020, they have handled almost 30,000 calls and since its expansion in May, have supported the Greater Manchester Clinical Assessment Service (CAS) and NHS 111 service by streaming their calls and supporting the caller to a solution which helps relieve pressure on other services, including ambulance call outs and attendances at A&E.
It has undoubtedly prevented many service users and families from experiencing a crisis in isolation with no support. The main outcomes have resulted in callers being supported with crisis intervention to prevent self-harm, including suicide prevention and safety planning with the service user so they continue to be cared for at home.
One caller, who would like to remain anonymous, said: “I turned to the helpline in the middle of the night when I was feeling very low. I would like to express my gratitude to the helpline team for helping me reach my birthday. I would have not got this far without your support.”
The service has been able to intervene at a critical point in the crisis pathway and divert people, who do not need urgent physical health care or require assessment under the Mental Health Act, from attending A&E departments and potentially being admitted to an acute mental health bed.
This resulted in reduced pressure on the local urgent care systems across Greater Manchester and the provision of a more timely and appropriate care pathway for people in mental health distress.
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Source: Rochdale News, 15th July 2021