Fears over future of Norfolk mental health support line

Norman Lamb MP and one Mind's workers
Image caption The support line was launched by the then health minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb

Fears have been raised about the future of a mental health crisis line in Norfolk which has seen "huge demand" since its launch.

The support line, run by staff from charity Mind, received more than 6,000 calls in its first six months.

But its funding could end in June if it is not supported by the local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

Mind said the service is a "lifeline" for patients. The CCGs said no decision had been made.

The pilot project was launched by former health minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb in January this year.

Its aim was to provide support for patients over 18 under the care of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) or those who have been seen by the trust's services within the last 12 months.

Image caption Michael Scott, chief executive of the NSFT, said he would be "very concerned" about any loss of the service

Eligible patients are given a special number to call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if they need support or someone to talk to.

The aim is to help callers avoid a mental health crisis occurring or escalating.

Norfolk's CCGs were set to decide whether to spend £258,000 on keeping the service running on Friday, but have deferred the decision to the end of next week.

Chief executive Michael Scott told an NSFT board meeting he thought the line was a "valuable additional service".

Service a 'lifeline'

Amanda Hedley, chief executive of Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind, said: "We are extremely concerned at the thought that the helpline may not secure continued funding."

She said that between January and May the service had been able to answer 6,111 calls.

"The demand has been huge and is growing from 883 calls in February to 2,500 in May so far," she said.

A spokeman for the CCGs said the five groups were reviewing the project, which was initially funded through a one-off payment.

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