Autumn launch date for new West Norfolk mental service

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Plans to launch a new mental health helpline in West Norfolk this autumn have been announced.

Last month, borough health chiefs axed their funding for a pilot project, proposing a more locally-focused service instead.

Now, the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has teamed up with the area’s MIND group and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to establish the new programme.

But, while funding for the current programme ends this month, the new service will not begin until September 1.

However, the CCG’s chief officer Dr Sue Crossman maintains the move will improve patient care.

She said: “This will give us the opportunity to draw in a range of practitioners that have existing knowledge of service users who can ensure they receive appropriate and timely care locally.

“It also supports our continued efforts to invest further in pre-emptive care and support for patients with mental health needs.”

The decision to halt funding for the pilot was condemned at the time as “dreadful” by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.

But the CCG now claims it saw the scheme as an “interim measure”, while the number of calls from the borough to it showed it was not fully integrated with local services.

They also point out they have spent £300,000 on mental health liaison services in accident and emergency units and supporting the work of the Fermoy assessment unit.

And Eddie West-Burnham, chief executive of West Norfolk MIND, has welcomed the new move.

He said: “The development of this service is a very positive step towards ensuring individuals currently accessing local mental health services can gain access to a greater level of support.

“We know that resources are very limited and staff are frustrated that they may not always be able to spend quality time with each individual in their care.

“We are working closely with partner organisations towards recovery and integration in mental health services. This service will help provide much needed reassurance and encouragement to people already accessing services.”