Thousands of people in Somerset get faster joined up mental health care thanks to new Open Mental Health Partnership

Thousands of people in Somerset looking for help with mental health are getting faster joined-up care thanks to the Open Mental Health partnership, which includes a helpline they can access 24 hours a day.

The Open Mental Health Somerset support line (Mindline) has had more than 22,000 calls in the last ten months – or 78 a day – and ensures people in need can speak to a professional straight away, have a follow up within three days and receive clinical support within four weeks if needed.

People can call for help with issues such as depression, isolation and loneliness, anxiety, debt problems and anything else affecting their mental health.

The scheme, which is part of the Somerset Integrated Care System, has brought together doctors, nurses, psychologists, and charities such as Age UK, Citizen’s Advice, Rethink Mental Illness and many others.

Beccy Wardle, head of NHS Collaboration at Rethink Mental Illness, said it had taken time to get the structure of the programme right but that making sure all partners were equal had been key.

She said: “Our aim was to make sure any person needing help could get it straight away without having to join a waiting list or tell their story multiple times. Now, people can call our number or 111 and speak immediately to someone fully trained to talk to them and help direct them to the right type of care.”

This could mean organising clinical support, a chat for 20 minutes and putting them in touch with Age UK or it could mean an appointment to visit a community crisis safe space.

The trailblazing scheme has also tightly linked the voluntary sector into the NHS through the development of a shared system for recovery and care planning, so all professionals involved in the person’s care will be able to write and respond to each other.

Call handlers are fully trained to discuss issues and if a person is struggling with additional problems such as debt they can put them in touch with the right local groups like specially trained Citizens Advice caseworkers.

All parties can then share information and work as a virtual team to discuss patients and help them in the best way.

Angela Kerr, CEO Citizen’s Advice South Somerset said: “Each Open Mental Health Partner brings something different to the service but what we have in common is our commitment to changing how we work together for the benefit of our clients’ wellbeing.

“What’s been different for Citizens Advice is that we’ve stepped outside the constraints of our standard working practices bringing our specialisms alongside others in a service tailored to our shared clients and everyone wins – health staff don’t have to worry that their patient’s recovery may be affected by homelessness or debt.

“Advice workers are much more effective when they can concentrate on sorting out the money and benefits issues because their client has other support. Clients are getting an individual and responsive support service that extends across all aspects of their lives and wellbeing.

“Staying well is not always easy for our clients and having a quick and easy route back into help is very reassuring.  It means any one of our partners can act early to bring support into play and prevent issues escalating into crisis. What’s not to like!”

Beccy Wardle added: “The Voluntary Sector can at times be competitively minded because it’s needed to be but now with collaborations in Integrated Care Systems we’re more able to think about what unites us and how we can collaborate. Working on the differences in language between the voluntary and health and social care sectors has been key as we often mean the same thing but use different words to describe it.

“If you’re going to have really transformative change its got to be a whole system change and taking a leap of faith to work together.”

For more information visit the Rethink Mental Illness website.