Health Minister Robin Swann has announced a new regional Mental Health Crisis Service in line with a commitment in the Mental Health Action Plan (MHAP).
The MHAP contained the commitment to reconfigure mental health crisis services and in late 2020, the Department commissioned a review of crisis services.
The review report, which was received by the Department in April 2021, considered evidence from literature, best practice, service user perspectives and provided 15 recommendations.
The new regional crisis service has been developed together with the authors of the review, and reflects the recommendations in the review. The policy outlines what the crisis service will look like and provides 10 actions to make this a reality.
Minister Swann said: “Crisis services exist to provide support to some of the most vulnerable patients in a very difficult time of their lives. It is accepted that crisis services in Northern Ireland are in need of reorganisation and reform.
“The new regional crisis service in Northern Ireland seeks to provide a regional approach to mental health crisis, where people get care and treatment when they need it, where they need it. It is a policy that focusses on the needs of the person rather than the system, and is a new direction for crisis services.”
The new service has three clear outcomes:
- A regionally consistent crisis service that will provide effective help and support for people in a crisis;
- A reduction in the number of people who have to wait longer than two hours for crisis support as laid out in the Regional You in Mind Mental Health Care Pathway; and
- A reduction in the number of people who attend Emergency Departments in crisis.
It is also expected that implementation will help reduce the demand on mental health services, which are currently under extreme pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Crisis services are an integral part of mental health and suicide prevention services. The new regional crisis service provides regional consistency and implements best practice across the region. I therefore expect that the first phases of implementation of the new service can start immediately,” Minister Swann explained.
“Improving services will lead to better patient outcomes, a reduction in pressures on Emergency Departments, emergency services and mental health services.”
The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and PHA will lead on the implementation of the new crisis service through the 10 actions in the policy, with HSC Trusts responsible for the implementation and delivery of regionally consistent mental health crisis services. An implementation plan for the new service is expected to be completed November 2021.