Pioneering Mental Health Service Wins Top Honour from GPs

A service which has provided help and support to nearly 40,000 callers in mental health crisis in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in just two years has been honoured at a prestigious ceremony.

The First Response Service won the Mental Health Initiative Award at the General Practice Awards 2018 ceremony in London which was hosted by comedian Sally Phillips and Alan Dedicoat, best known for being the “voice” behind the National Lottery and Strictly Come Dancing.

Dr Caroline Meiser-Stedman, Consultant Psychiatrist for the service which is delivered by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have won this award. It’s a tribute to the hard work of everyone who has been involved in the success of the First Response Service since it was launched.

“It has changed the landscape as far as the provision of support for those in mental health crisis is concerned, and we are very proud of all the work that has gone on and especially the feedback we have had from service-users.”

Launched in 2016, the First Response Service (FRS) provides 24-hour access, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to mental health care, advice and support. To date, staff have taken more than 40,000 calls. It is available to people living in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by calling the NHS 111 helpline and selecting ‘option 2’.

FRS was set up by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Concordat – a joint initiative involving health providers, commissioners Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, police and Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind.

Prior to its launch, there was no capacity to help people out-of-hours meaning those in mental health crisis had no choice but to go to A&E departments at local acute hospitals.

However, patients often reported they found A&E departments stressful and inappropriate for their needs. Since the service was launched attendances at local A&E departments has fallen by more than 20 per cent.

Dr Emma Tiffin, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) GP mental health lead said: “The First Response Service is a testament to joint working by urgent care services across our local system with the aim of improving the experience and outcomes for all our patients in mental health crisis.

“This is such an important area and was identified as a priority by patients, carers and NHS staff. We owe a big thank you to our patients and carers for co-designing the service with us.”

Calls are taken by specially trained mental health staff from CPFT. Patients who require an urgent psychiatric assessment will be offered this at home or close to where they live. They can then be referred directly into other CPFT services if needed.

Other people who do not require specialist mental health services can be referred to local voluntary organisations.

A key part of the service is that people can be referred to Sanctuaries – one in Cambridge and another in Peterborough – which are run by CPSL Mind. The Sanctuaries provide vital “time out” for those in mental health crisis.

Hannah Turner, Head of Services for CPSL Mind said: “It is our privilege to be able to offer individuals who are experiencing crisis a safe place to come and receive emotional support at a time when they need it the most.”

The General Practice Award is not the first honour collected by the First Response Service.

As well as being praised by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens during a visit to CPFT in the summer, FRS was shortlisted in the annual Royal College of Psychiatry Awards, and won the Crisis Care Award in the prestigious Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards.

Now in their 10th year, the General Practice Awards celebrate the best examples of innovation, dedication, and leadership taking place in primary care in the country.


*Article originally written and published by Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust: