Somerset First Response service marks one year anniversary


Somerset First Response service marks one year anniversary

In March 2023 we launched the Somerset First Response Service following an increase in the number of people needing support from our adult mental health services.

First Response Service is a 24-hour telephone service, available 365 days a year to patients, carers, professionals and anyone else concerned that a person maybe in a mental health crisis.

It’s an important part of our home treatment team and is very much designed to improve access to urgent mental health services, and reduce the number of people needing to attend our emergency departments, which aren’t best placed to provide mental health support.

Laura Hopkins, operational service manager for our countywide home treatment service, First Response Service, and urgent care hub, explains: “The vision and values of our First Response Service were co-produced with our experts by experience, ensuring that patients get a personalised, non-judgemental, and compassionate response.

“We know how difficult it is for people to reach out in their darkest moments, and we want individuals to feel safe to talk to us and know that their voice will be heard.

“Most people who sadly take their own life tend not to have reached out to mental health services, and we want to encourage people to call, knowing that we are available and accessible for all. We will listen, and together we’ll find a way forward.”

The First Response Service works closely with Somerset’s Mindline 24/7, which provides a 24-hour mental health telephone support line for people of all ages in emotional and mental distress.

It takes over 1,000 calls a week, supporting individuals with a wide range of difficulties. This could be those who may be distressed, depressed or anxious, are contemplating harming themselves, or those who may need support with managing distressing hallucinations and delusions.

Caroline Cordy manages the team in the eastern part of Somerset, with Carolyn Broom heading up the western part of Somerset team.

“Our new first response team was set up following a 30% increase in the number of calls from people needing help with their mental health over the last few years,” says Caroline.

“This led to our home treatment team colleagues spending more time answering calls than going out to support patients – which in turn meant patients weren’t getting help in a timely enough manner.

“By taking this call handling role off our home treatment team colleagues, it means they can spend more quality time with patients when they experience a mental health crisis, without the worry of needing to get back to the office to cover the phone lines. Colleagues tend to rotate between the first response and home treatment services too.”

Our home treatment team tends to take calls from people are feeling distressed and upset, often needing support as they feel in a situation where they have nowhere to turn.

Caroline continues: “We also accept calls from our GP and ambulance service colleagues, as well as the police and other professionals, if they feel the person needs a follow-up with our team.

“It’s really important that we get to know patients’ families and carers too, so they are able to access us for advice and support too – this could include a carers’ assessment.

“My message to colleagues is that if you’re caring for a patient who you feel needs support, particularly out-of-hours, do give our service a call – we are a 24-hour service and are happy to talk to people or signpost them to a service that will meet their needs.”

For more information, head to the First Response Service page on our website.