Improving Local Mental Health Services

Last October, in this column, I asked local organisations to work together and consider applying to the new Beyond Places of Safety Fund.

Applications had just been opened for a new £15 million fund to improve support for people who experience a range of mental health conditions that put them at risk of an acute mental health crisis.

The Beyond Places of Safety fund is the successor to the original Places of Safety programme which was established, alongside the Crisis Care Concordat, to confront one of the quiet scandals within mental health system – namely the thousands of people left in a police cell following a detention under the Mental Health Act.

The new funding for the Places of Safety Programme, coupled with the ingenuity and partnerships forged between statutory and voluntary organisations under local Crisis Care agreements, has seen the number detained in police custody following a mental health crisis drop by over 80% over the last five years. New regulations have also come into effect to ensure that police custody is only used in exceptional circumstances under careful medical and police supervision. No young person can be held in custody.

Having spent time with Cornwall Resus and Street Pastors in our local towns on a Saturday night, as well as shadowing staff at A&E at Treliske, I am aware of the challenges that our front line public service professionals are facing with people in crisis.

I listened carefully to their opinions which informed my actions when I was Chair of the National Crisis Concordat, a role I held when I was the Home Office Minister responsible for vulnerable people, domestic violence, drug and alcohol strategy, amongst other matters. I have seen at first hand the difference that funding common sense innovations – driven by passionate third sector organisations, working in partnership with the NHS – are making to how people are treated when they become acutely unwell.

I am delighted that Cornwall is benefitting from the new Beyond Places of Safety Fund.  £1.5 million will be invested in the new hub at Treliske which will enable partners, including Addaction, to ensure that local people have the wrapped around care they need.  Support that not only treats the symptoms but also tackles the root cause of their crisis which can include a wide range of issues from sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and substance misuse to homelessness. Treating the whole person rather than just their mental health crisis should lead to better outcomes for the people concerned as well as reducing demand for emergency care at Treliske.

There may be no magic bullet to stem the rising tide of mental ill health – but innovative community initiatives can make a make a real difference to keeping people safe.

Along with plans to train a million people in basic mental health first aid skills – the first country in the world to have this scale of ambition – we will continue to invest in NHS mental health services, training more professionals, and aiming to treat more people than ever before.

First published in the West Briton 31/05/18