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GPs to access mental health crisis helpline via NHS 111

GPs in Suffolk will soon be able to access a mental health helpline via NHS 111 for themselves and their patients, it has been announced.

Under the long-term plan, published in January, NHS England’s priority is to reduce the number of suicides over the next decade by ensuring anyone undergoing a crisis can call NHS 111 and access mental health support and services 24/7.

The latest Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG board papers, released this month, said East and West Suffolk will implement 24/7 telephone access to a trained mental health crisis response team through NHS 111 option 2 for patients and healthcare professionals, including GPs, of all ages.

The papers said: ‘This telephone line will offer access to people of all ages to enquire about support for themselves or for family and friends if they are in crisis. This line will also be available to offer mental health advice and support for health and social care professionals such as GPs, police and ambulance.’

It can be accessed for GPs in need of support, or to speak to for support with a patient.

A spokesperson for Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCGs said: ‘Funding for an enhanced 24/7 mental health crisis support service was agreed by the governing bodies of both CCGs last month. This is part of a national drive to improve services for mental health patients who are acutely unwell.

‘From next year [1 April 2020], patients in a mental health crisis will be able to call the NHS 111 service and gain access to mental health professionals, who will be able to offer guidance and support, signposting to the best response dependent on presenting need, and when deemed clinically appropriate, ability to access face-to-face assessment within four hours.’

At the moment, NHS 111 option 2 is only available in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, according to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG.

A spokesperson for the CCG said: ‘All our local GPs can access our First Response Service (FRS), which is a 24/7 all age community-based service that supports people experiencing a mental health crisis by providing immediate access to mental health care, advice, support and treatment.

‘By calling 111, and selecting option 2, the GP, patient, carer or other professional will be put through to a trained mental health telecoach who will discuss current mental health needs and agree a care plan or organise further face to face assessment if required.’

Health Education England has recently called on the Government to implement a ‘Samaritans-style’ mental health service for GPs, as part of a report outlining how to improve mental health and wellbeing in the NHS.