#MentalHealth month week 1: Single point of access for Londoners experiencing mental health crisis

Six months ago, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust set up a one-stop mental health initiative known as the Single Point of Access (SPA) service. SPA services such as CNWL provide a service akin to A&E for people with mental health crisis.

The system provides telephone-based advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and directs practical help to people with mental health problems in five north-west London boroughs, in particular, those suffering a mental health crisis.

Of the 13,000 calls received at the end of February 2016, more than 1,000 classified were as urgent. Within that 1,000, two in three were treated in hospital, while the remainder received talking therapies.

As a result of the new system, people in need of urgent crisis care receive help within 24 hours, and emergency cases are seen inside four hours by a rapid response team, made up of specialist nurses and psychiatrists.

At times of mental health crisis, the Single Point of Access service works closely with Home Treatment Rapid Response teams and partner organisations to direct people to the services most able to aid their recovery.

Four psychiatric nurses and four administrators are on duty at all times, with two doctors available, to deal with patients referred to the service, whether as self-referrals, or those from GPs, carers, housing associations, police officers or the ambulance service.

The team offers specialist advice and help to the 1.3 million people in the Trust’s area, including relatives as well as health professionals who want advice about assisting patients with complex mental health issues.

“It used to take up to two hours to send a patient who was in a mental health crisis into the secondary care service, but now it takes five minutes, thanks to the SPA,” psychiatrist Balu Pitchiah told the Guardian.

The Single Point of Access offers mental health triage for routine, urgent and emergency referrals, information and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year. Call 0800 0234 650 or email cnw-tr.spa@nhs.net for more information.

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