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Posted on the 17th September 2021

Secretary of State for health and social care, Sajid Javid prioritised a visit to Blackpool’s Mental Health Urgent Assessment Centre (MHUAC), following its success in bringing down admission rates during an increase in demand for mental health services.

As part of the health secretary’s first visit to a mental health setting since coming to post in June, Mr Javid met with managers, clinicians and service users at the MHUAC - a service led by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft) working closely with Blackpool Teaching Hospital - to discuss the huge impact that Covid has had on demand levels for mental health services and hear how the MHUAC is helping transform emergency mental health care; successfully reducing admission rates for people with an urgent mental health need by 10%.

Established as a safe and calm assessment space for those who are experiencing urgent mental health needs who attend A&E, the MHUAC focuses on therapeutic needs, meaning those in distress can be more effectively supported – lowering the need for admission in some instances.

A notable increase in demand for mental health services has been reported nationally with figures collected by the BBC Shared Data Unit showing that nearly 300,000 referrals were made in March 2021, a rise of 19% from the same time in the previous year. A similar referral increase is being recognised regionally with data showing a 15% increase in community demand across all LSCft mental health services in comparison to pre-covid demand (April to August 2021 vs November 2019-March 2020), with the biggest surge in March 2021, a 32% increase on pre-Covid levels.

The health secretary’s visit to the MHUAC, which opened in May, demonstrated how the centre is helping to tackle that demand and relieve pressures on its neighbouring emergency department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. 1 in 5 people presenting at A&E with mental health concerns have been assessed and supported in the MHUAC; helping to support a 64% increase in A&E presentations since pre-pandemic.

Caroline Donovan, Chief Executive at LSCft explains: “We really want to make sure that people who are in crisis with their mental health are able to get the help they need quickly and in the most appropriate place. We are constantly developing and driving innovative solutions to meet the increased demand for mental health services, especially as a result of the pressures the pandemic has placed on our teams and communities.

“It was a privilege for our teams to host Mr Javid at the MHUAC; a wonderful opportunity for my hard-working colleagues to talk to him about their day to day experiences on the frontline.”

Kelly Morrison, Urgent Care MHUAC and Fylde coast urgent pathway service manager said: “We have seen one of the largest increases in referrals to our Fylde Coast mental health services over the last year, and this will be due in part to the pressures and strains the pandemic has had on our communities, and how people are coping with returning to a sense of normality.

“We’re positive that this centre will provide an improved experience for those who need mental health support, and help to reduce some of the pressures experienced by those waiting in the emergency department.”

Blackpool MHUAC is one of several assessment centres launched by LSCft at its key sites including Royal Blackburn Hospital, Royal Preston Hospital and Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

With access to highly trained mental health nurses, consultant psychiatrists, support workers, and trainee nursing associates, service users will be assessed, supported and treated as required.

The Trust has also launched a mental health crisis line which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by calling 0800 953 0110. Trained clinicians are available to answer calls from people needing immediate advice or assistance, for themselves or a friend or family member. Callers can receive a mental health assessment and referral to appropriate services.

Working with partners the Trust has also opened Sycamore House a crisis house in Blackpool which offers a home and support, for Adults with Mental Health conditions.

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