A 14 point plan of action to improve mental health crisis pathways  in Berkshire West, making them more readily available and easier to access, has been drawn up following a lengthy consultation with service users and other key stakeholders.


The experiences of people with mental health problems, their families and other health and social care agencies have helped shape the plans and it’s hoped the improvements will start to come on stream within the next few months.


National figures show one in four adults and one in 10 children experience mental health difficulties and many more are caring for people who experience mental ill health. The Covid pandemic is also already showing increases in the number of people reporting mental health concerns and it is expected that these numbers will increase.


The action plan has been put together by the Berkshire West Mental Health and Learning Disability Programme Board and follows a comprehensive eight month engagement and consultation campaign.


Its priorities are in line with the national NHS Long Term Plan which commits to delivering the fastest expansion of mental health services in the NHS’s history, with a renewed commitment to improve and widen access to care for children and adults needing mental health support


Key aims of the Berkshire West Plan are to:

  • Improve access to mental health services and making them readily available in a timely manner
  • To expand the mental health liaison service through the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) –
  • Improve 24/7 mental health crisis provision
  • Provide alternative crisis provision like sanctuaries/crisis café
  • Establish a new Ambulance Mental Health response pathway with trained mental health staff

A number of appointments to key roles have happened, for example a new Drug and Alcohol practitioner and a Project Manager started earlier this year, to make sure the changes happen swiftly and smoothly and start to make a real impact very soon.


An NHS 111 Crisis Line has now gone live offering a single point of access for all Mental Health calls. It’s being co-ordinated by Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in liaison with the NHS111 service.


Mental Health practitioners will triage calls to the 111 line. Nurses with expert knowledge and skills will be in control rooms to support 111 and ambulance staff will also be trained in initial mental health crisis response techniques. 


The 111 system will also link into a new Crisis Line to operate 24/7 for people of all ages. This will have digital access via Skype, email or LiveChat in a bid to make it more accessible to people living in remote areas.


Another key proposal is development of specialist access for children and young people offering them crisis assessment in the community. This includes intensive locally-based support and intervention aimed at preventing admission to hospital.


There are also plans for more joined up work between agencies caring for people with delirium and dementia, helping people manage better in their own homes and do more to prevent admissions to hospital.


By the Autumn it’s hoped to have a new Crisis Café called a ‘Breathing Space’, piloted in Reading and the longer term plan is to establish similar facilities in Wokingham and West Berkshire.


And additional work is planned in Primary Care so that GP surgeries can offer more speedy support within the community, backed up by a range of health and social care professionals including pharmacists, social prescribers and Physician Associates.


Katrina Anderson, Director of Joint Commissioning at Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “These are ambitious plans and have taken time to develop because we want to make sure they will really make a difference to people’s lives. We are determined to provide local people with a mental health service that is easy to access, can step in and support them very quickly and then stay by their side as they work through their issues.


“It’s been led by a raft of agencies that are specialists in this area including our health partners at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, along with Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service, local authorities and voluntary sector.


“But at the heart of all of the work has been the voices of service users and the people who live with them and care for them. In addition to the eight months of consultation, we are in regular contact with them all through a network of support groups and agencies. They’ve told us what currently works and what doesn’t and what improvements are needed to help them to live more independent, safe and happier lives,” she said.


“As each of the new initiatives comes on stream we will be doing more work with service users and partners to make sure everyone knows what’s on offer and how to access it so they get the most out of our new services.”



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