My View, Nick Tupper: Step towards better mental health care

Taking a call
Taking a call

Saturday is World Mental Health Day, so it’s a timely opportunity to talk about an important health service that launched last week in Doncaster.

Mental health has a reputation for being the Cinderella of health care, often at the back of the queue for NHS resources.

It shouldn’t be, as it’s thought 25 per cent of all appointments at GP surgeries are related to mental health . It’s probably a similar number in A&E departments.

So although mental health may have been overlooked in the past, this is something we as a clinical commissioning group are determined to change in Doncaster.

In fact, mental health is one of our local priorities for improvement. We want it to be on a par with physical health when it comes to good local NHS services.

That’s why I’m delighted to announce that we are really moving forward in terms of providing better mental health services for people who need them urgently, when they are having a real personal crisis.

Working with NHS colleagues at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, we last week launched a £400,000 scheme to create a Single Point of Access (SPA) for Doncaster people who are having a mental health crisis.

We believe the scheme is a first of its kind in South Yorkshire, designed to help people who are at a very low point in their life.

In simple terms, it means anyone experiencing a serious mental health problem, such as wanting to self-harm or having suicidal thoughts, can ring a single telephone number – 01302 566999 – where they will have fast access to a healthcare professional who can help them.

The previous system that was in place often meant such people, who are in a very vulnerable state and need care fast, may have waited up to four hours before getting some help. They may also have had to go to A&E to get that help. It targets people who are already under the care of a mental health consultant but living at home or in the local community.

The new SPA system will speed up the time it takes from making a call to having a healthcare professional respond to that cry for help.

The SPA team operate around the clock, every day, with specially trained call handlers, supported by clinicians, being the initial contact. They gather details and then direct the caller to the most appropriate service, ranging from advice and support to treatment.

Importantly, the SPA mental health team work alongside Doncaster’s community nursing team to ensure there’s a strong cross-over, ensuring a patient’s physical health can also be reviewed at the same time. This is a big step towards better mental health care in Doncaster.