More than £200m of national funding has been allocated to local areas to transform urgent and emergency mental health care through a network of services over the next two years.
A spokesman for NHS England said just under half of NHS mental health crisis teams currently operate on a 24/7 basis but under the new plans, each one will offer round the clock support, making access to care much easier for people in need of urgent mental health support.
The money will also boost the rollout of new or expanded crisis services such as safe havens, crisis cafes and crisis houses in every region.
These services are usually provided by the voluntary sector or NHS and tend to be rated highly by patients, helping people whose needs might be escalating to crisis point. Another £140 million will bolster these services further from 2021 onwards.
While the crisis teams offer urgent and emergency mental health support in the community or intensive mental health treatment at home, studies have also shown that when fully staffed and operating 24/7, they improve patient experience and free up resources by providing an alternative to A&E or inpatient admission.
National Police Chiefs’ council lead for Mental Health, Chief Constable Mark Collins said: ‘The police service is responding to increased levels of demand caused by incidents related to mental health, which are not crime-related.
‘Any strengthening for mental health provision, enabling practitioners to offer appropriate care and support to those in mental health crisis is welcome. This should ease the pressure on our people and ensure those in mental health crisis have more direct access to treatment in line with their care needs.
‘There is a well-established, and growing dialogue between partners to build lasting support networks between emergency services and we will work closely with the NHS and others to ensure this continues at pace.’
The NHS spokesman said the new investment in crisis alternative services will mean the employment of thousands more peer support workers with lived experience of using mental health services.
They will also require a focus on addressing historical inequalities in experience of mental health care such as those faced by young black men or people with substance use problems.
Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, the mental health charity, said: ‘It is very encouraging to see this much-needed investment in crisis care services.
‘For too long people with mental health problems have struggled to get access to appropriate services when they reach crisis point.
‘Routinely, people find that in their area ‘crisis’ phone lines are only open during office hours and, when they do get through, are required to wait hours or even days before they can access help.
‘When you are in crisis, when you can no longer cope, you need access to support right away, whether that is specialist mental health support that comes to where you are, or the option of more informal support in a sanctuary or evening ‘crisis café’, a safe space where you can be supported to recover.
‘It is particularly positive to see a focus on peer support workers and addressing inequalities experienced by particular groups when accessing services, such as young black men.’
Every local health service has signed up to have around-the-clock community mental health crisis service by 2021, with people able to self-refer to in the same way they can for urgent physical health care, mostly over the phone but also online or by simply dropping in.
Friends, families and other professionals who may be supporting people experiencing a mental health crisis, such as police and ambulance staff will also be able to access the teams 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NHS crisis teams include mental health professionals, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and support workers. They provide care at home for people experiencing a mental health crisis who might otherwise be hospitalised for example due to psychosis, self-harm or suicidal feelings.
The teams can administer medication, provide practical support, for example with money or housing and or help plan care prevent a crisis happening in the future.