Why all A&E Vangaurds should include MH crisis care

In 2013 I took part in The Barker Commission which sought to advice government on the Future of Health and Social Care. It argued for a more integrated system which would bring savings but also for more funding per GDP for a health service fit for the 21st century that met the needs of the population.

Two years on I’m now apart of an extremely exciting project that puts real integration and parity of esteem for mental health at the heart of my community.

Eight Urgent and Emergency Care Vangaurds were launched nationwide but only three of these eight Vangaurds included mental health crisis care.

Often people in mental health crisis end up at A&E which apart from costing £2500 per admission is the worst place for someone in crisis, unless they have already inflicted life threatening injury or overdose.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust successfully bid for one of these Vangaurds securing two million pounds in funding to setup a new integrated system of services including a safe place called “The Sanctuary” and a 24/7 mental health crisis number manned by trained CPFT staff

Right now The Sanctuary has gone live and has taken seven visits in its first week and is being run by MIND in Cambridgeshire which shows how this Vangaurd is making use of the third sector, making it self sustainable whilst forming closer relationships with other organisations too which is so important and often overlooked in the past.

As this Vangaurd is in the early stages of funding and organisational setup, the  24/7 crisis line hasn’t gone live yet but will do once everything is in place.

We do however have CPFT staff in the police control room as 60% of police time is taken up with people experiencing mental health illness.

Not only are the police, ambulance service and third sector included in this ambitious project but also other agencies like housing whom play a big part when it comes to helping people in crisis.

The case has been long argued that by joining up services that not only pounds are saved but patients benifit too from this joined up approach.

Just think of the pounds and lives saved by putting someone in crisis, not in a police cell but in a safe place with trained staff from the third sector whom are more interested in talking to the person than constantly risk assessing them instead of just talking to them, which often happens in our understandably risk adverse mental health services.

Of course we need to ensure patients and staff are safe, but sometimes all somebody needs in crisis is a safe non clinical place with just another person to talk to, whom has experienced mental health crisis themselves in the past.

I’m hugely passionate about this project and I can only see the benifits if funded properly and patients not only listened too but involved like I am in the co design of this project as is happening in my area.

Naturally it is not perfect yet but with the help of the community and third sector the staff at CPFT whom are giving this project their all are making great things happen and as this project expands to include self referals and other safe places like The Sanctuary spring up in other areas in Cambridgeshire I can see the face of mental health crisis care in Cambridgeshire changing for the better and I hope will be a flagship project for the rest of the country to follow and learn from (including the inevitable mistakes!)

We are far from self referal at the moment until capacity is built up and more funding released upon proof the project is truly saving money through less A&E admissions and a reduction in police time ect but it is vital we get there as I understand 50% of suicides have not presented at A&E before, so self referal is going to be an important part of this project in the long term if we are to reduce suicides.

I know myself I never presented at A&E, I just took a shed load of pills and didn’t expect to wake up the next morning, so I know if I’d had the option of The Sanctuary I may have never gotten to that state of absolute irrational thinking.

As I continue to work on this project along with other service users I hope to ensure these services continue to meet the needs and expectations of service users that know just how important this project is, not from the perspective of saving pounds but lives.

To find out more about the Urgent and Emergency Care Vangaurds CLICK HERE