On 20 March 2020, just prior to the Covid-19 crisis lockdown taking effect, the two crisis telephone lines were merged into one Trust wide Helpline service for known service users of all ages and their carers. This helpline was extended to become operational 24/7, 7 days per week, 365 days of the year. The service is based on the Prestwich Hospital site and operated by experienced mental health professional staff providing this valuable service.
From 9am on Wednesday 17tJune 2020 the GMMH Helpline will be available via a free phone number – 0800 953 0285.
Calls to the Helpline from service users and carers has been consistently high over the past three months with the highest demand being in the evenings, overnight and at weekend. The Helpline staff have worked closely with community teams to ensure the Helpline offers appropriate and timely support as part of service user crisis plans and has also been able to offer translations services and a mobile number for people who need to use visual communication to ensure the service is accessible.
The NHS Long Term Plan pledge to improve mental health support, with every local mental health service providing a 24/7 community mental health crisis ‘phone line by 2021, was brought forward to be implemented in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis. This development was realised to provide timely access to mental health support and to help relieve pressure on emergency services including A&E, the police and ambulance services. The GMMH Helpline has successfully provided brief interventions to people in mental health crisis and diverted many people away from A&E. It has also provided support and advice, both practical and emotional, to people and their carers who have struggled through isolation during the lock down period with mainstream services unable to provide their usual level of support.
The longer term NHS Plan ambition is to make NHS 111 the single universal point of access for urgent mental health care by 2024. Along with other GM mental health Trust helplines, the GM Clinical Assessment Service and NWAS, the GMMH Helpline is taking part in a trial to implement a phased approach to implementation of a framework that will operationalise expanding the new GMMH 24/7 helpline to include diversions from the GM Clinical Assessment Service (CAS) and NHS 111 service. This will provide open access to unknown service-users/the public who require specialist mental health support in this pandemic crisis. This trial commenced on 25th May 2020.
This potential expansion of the GMMH help line will enhance the 24/7 Helpline by providing support to offer access to specialist mental health services via the GM CAS & 111 service, mental health triage and potentially further assessment and onward referral to both Primary, Secondary, Crisis and Third Sector support to help dissipate the crisis. This will improve service-users and carer experience by being able to access the right care at the right time in the right place through this pandemic.