The NHS mental health crisis helpline for people in Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire is not fit for purpose, according to information revealed at the local organisation that funds and plans healthcare in our area.
When a quality team visited the crisis service, run by Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, it found it did ‘not have an effective crisis line – one line with no sufficient answerphone service’, which meant messages were ‘stacking up’. A summary of the visit (see item 2.5) added that there was no designated call handler employed to triage and signpost people calling in (like there was for the crisis line in Berkshire East). More than half of the calls were ‘inappropriate’, from people who might not have been in crisis, because the ‘the number is given out everywhere’.
The issue was discussed at the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group governing body meeting in public, on 12 March 2019.
The CCG’s quality team undertook the visit of the crisis service and had described what they found as ‘shocking’.
The CCG’s chair, GP Dr Abid Irfan, and CCG nursing director Debbie Simmons who oversees the quality team, told the governing body meeting that the findings were being taken ‘absolutely seriously’. The quality team are due to go back to BHFT to see what immediate steps had been taken to improve the crisis line handling, and the CCG was also carrying out a longer-term review of the mental health crisis pathway to see how it works for patients.
A patient leader who was at the governing body meeting said local Healthwatch had voiced concerns about mental health crisis care at least a year before the latest quality visit.
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