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The public needs an NHS 111-style mental health phone line, say MPs

Mental health nurses would be among the professionals handling calls, cross-party group recommends 

Mental health nurses would be among the professionals handling calls, cross-party group recommends 

A 24-hour phone support service staffed by mental health nurses is needed for England, according to MPs.


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Some NHS 111 call-handlers do not feel adequately trained to help people in a mental health crisis, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health said.

The recommendation for the phone service comes in a report by the cross-party group, published today. The document assesses NHS England's progress in meeting its goals for mental healthcare by 2020/21. The MPs say some staff taking NHS 111 calls do not know if their callers' nearest emergency departments have psychiatric liaison.

Multidisciplinary workforce

The group of MPs said a 24/7 mental health support service could be staffed by other care professionals including psychological well-being practitioners or social workers.

The group also urged more investment in services such as community mental health teams, crisis teams and inpatient units providing support to adults and older people severely affected by mental illness.

‘People are being tipped into crisis waiting for treatment. That means more lives at risk and more strain on the system'

Brian Dow, deputy chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness

The MPs cite an example of a service user who was told by their GP to pretend not to have psychosis if they wanted to access psychological therapy quickly and avoid being rejected from the service.

'People are being advised to lie to get help'

The all-party group's chair, Conservative MP Helen Whately, said: ‘We know change is possible because we have achieved so much since 2016.

‘But it cannot be right, as we heard in the inquiry, that people severely affected by mental illnesses are being told to lie and downplay the severity of their symptoms in order to get help.’

Charity Rethink Mental Illness deputy chief executive Brian Dow added: ‘People are being tipped into crisis waiting for treatment. That means more lives at risk and more strain on the system,' he said.

Mental health nursing faces a recruitment and retention ‘crisis’, with 5,000 fewer mental health nurses since 2010, and more than 7,000 mental health nurse vacancies in England.


Further reading

Read the MPs' report here


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