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Trusts ‘rationing’ crisis support as only seven ICSs achieve service expansion


Only a handful of integrated care systems have so far managed to implement a key expansion in their support for patients in mental health crisis.

Internal NHS England documents, seen by HSJ, suggest that only 7 out of 42 health systems have begun offering enhanced mental health crisis support through the 111 helpline.

This was a key target set out by the NHS long term plan in 2019, to be fully rolled out by next year. Some areas of the country have implemented the expansion, but others are lagging well behind, the document suggests.

Currently, all areas offer separate 24/7 all-age crisis lines run by individual mental health trusts, offering brief psychological interventions and advice.

But HSJ has been told of national problems affecting the existing helplines, with callers facing long waits. In a recent review, Healthwatch England said the services are having to “pick and choose” who to help because of high demand, which in effect led to “service rationing”.

Siân Balsom manager for Healthwatch York, said: “People are overwhelmingly positive about the NHS. But there’s an acceptance that crisis support is not going to be there for people. That feels like a really bad place to be in.

“We know people in the voluntary sector feel like they are holding people they don’t have the skills and experience to support. [They] feel they are holding people in the wrong service because the right service is not there for them.

“People are trying to do a good job, but the system is more under pressure than it has ever been and there are clearly a lot of people who are experiencing significant mental illness who are not able to get support right there and then.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 3 October 2022

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