Safe Haven Cafe in Aldershot

As the Mental Health Taskforce launches its strategy, a Vanguard in North East Hampshire reveals how its Safe Haven Café gives patients another option to A&E. 

A café in a North East Hampshire ‘Vanguard’ has helped reduce mental health hospital admissions by a third in seven months by providing an alternative solution for patients.

The ‘Safe Haven’ café in Aldershot, on the Surrey and Hampshire border, has been open all year round since 2014 and is an evening drop in where people can go if they need support.

NHS workers and third sector partners are on site to provide mental health crisis support which has helped some people avoid the need for NHS care including A&E altogether.

Anyone suffering from a mental health problem diagnosed or not, can drop in for a cup of tea and a chat and can request more formal help if needed.

Service users say the café has helped them in many ways including preventing some from committing suicide and helping others combat loneliness, homelessness and general crisis.

Dr Andy Whitfield, Clinical Chair, North East Hampshire and Farnham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The café is an excellent example of the Five Year Forward View in action. It shows partners from all sectors working together to provide a service that is close to people’s homes, easy to access at times of need and clearly filling a gap in provision.

“We asked service users what they wanted and this was their idea which proves that putting patients at the heart of change is the key to providing the right kind of care and reducing need for costly NHS beds.”

The number of attendances to the café each month has jumped from an average of 167 in April to June last year to 415 in the same period in 2015 and 95 per cent of their feedback has been positive.

A separate study carried out for Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SABP) by Mental Health Strategies found that from April to October 2014, the number of admissions to acute in-patient psychiatric beds fell by 33% from within the ‘Safe Haven’ catchment area.

The service is de-escalating and preventing crises and avoiding the need for people to present to mainstream services, reducing demand and releasing capacity.

Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is contracted by the CCG to run the café in partnership with two third sector organisations which provide the staffing.

The service has brought partners across the statutory and third sectors together in an innovative way which has been crucial to its success.

It provides mental health support in a welcoming environment provided by trained psychiatric nurses and other mental health professionals as well as peer support.

Else, a regular at the café, said: “I’ve never felt so supported, listened to and appropriately cared for. Definitely since I’ve been coming here there are probably six or maybe seven occasions where I’ve come here instead of where I would have gone to A&E or ended up spiralling out of control in this crisis and ended up doing something stupid.”

The café is part of the North East Hampshire and Farnham Vanguard which aims to keep people “Happy, Healthy and at Home” and will support local people to improve their own health and wellbeing or when they are ill or need support, help them receive the best possible joined-up care.

The café is funded through NHS North East Hampshire and Farnham CCG and delivered by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, in collaboration with the charities mcch (commissioned by Hampshire County Council and Catalyst).

The café is open 6pm-11pm Monday-Friday and 12.30pm-11pm on weekends and bank holidays.