Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Mental Health Crisis First Response Service & Sanctuaries – HC – #MHAwards18

Prior to this service there was no capacity to see mental health patients out of hours accept via A&E, and no self-referral route, meaning many patients came direct to A&Es to seek help. Service users told us that it was very difficult and stressful trying to get help for mental health crisis and they found ED a stressful environment. We have developed an all age community-based 24/7 mental health crisis care pathway, directly accessible to all professionals, service users and carers, thereby ensuring timely access to safe, effective, high quality care for people in mental health crisis

New community based crisis mental health service- “ First Response” : • Provides assertive and responsive support and triage for anyone experiencing mental health crisis, including providing face to face assessment if needed. Open 24/7 for people of all ages from throughout Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Welcomes self-referral as well as urgent referrals from carers, GPs, ambulance crews, police (anyone!) and from the Emergency Departments

Highly Commended in Crisis & Acute Category - #MHAwards18


  • From start: Yes
  • During process: Yes
  • In evaluation: Yes


  • Peer: Yes
  • Academic: Yes
  • PP Collaborative: Yes

Find out more

  • Modestas Kavaliauskas - Mental Health Delivery Manager - Crisis Care Concordat Cambs & Peterborough CCG, Cambridgeshire Constabulary & Cambs & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
  • 07814770169






Please briefly describe your project, group, team or service, outlining what you do and why it makes a difference 

Prior to this service there was no capacity to see mental health patients out of hours accept via A&E, and no self-referral route, meaning many patients came direct to A&Es to seek help. 

• Service users told us that it was very difficult and stressful trying to get help for mental health crisis and they found ED a stressful environment.

•We have developed an all age community-based 24/7 mental health crisis care pathway, directly accessible to all professionals, service users and carers, thereby ensuring timely access to safe, effective, high quality care for people in mental health crisis

New community based crisis mental health service- “ First Response” : • Provides assertive and responsive support and triage for anyone experiencing mental health crisis, including providing face to face assessment if needed. 

• Open 24/7 for people of all ages from throughout Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

•Welcomes self-referral as well as urgent referrals from carers, GPs, ambulance crews, police (anyone!) and from the Emergency Departments

Calls are taken by telephone triage staff who have been trained to use a validated mental health triage scale, supervised and supported at all times by a band 7 mental health practioner. 

Patients who require an urgent psychiatric assessment will be offered this at home or close to home. They can then be referred directly into CPFT services if needed. 

Many people contacting the service do not need assessment but rather can be supported with phone support and advice and referral to voluntary sector organisations. 

A vital part of the FRS model is the availability of a Sanctuary, run by Mind in partnership with FRS. The Sanctuary provides a safe space to provide support and de-escalation. Every evening FRS staff are able to refer suitable patients, after triage, to use the Sanctuary, with once centre open in Cambridge and one in Peterborough 

Visitors to the Sanctuaries have also been referred to numerous other voluntary sector organisations for further work, helping to reduce their need for crisis support in the longer term.

The service has demonstrated that it can reduce A&E attendances, hospital admissions, demands for GP appointments and  Out of Hours’ time, ambulance conveyances and therefore deliver savings for the STP system, as well as improve patient care/safety and outcomes.

ActivityThe service opened 19th September 2016:

    • We are now managing 400-450 referrals a week: • 72% are managed by phone (support / advice and signposting)
    • • 17% are seen for urgent face to face assessment by the team
    • • 8% are referred into mental health services for longer term follow up
    • • 3% require emergency services input

• 61% calls are self-referral but a significant number also from GPs, police and ambulance services. • There have been over 2900 visits to the Sanctuaries (up to 31st March 2018)

Impact on Wider System:


25% reduction in A&E MH attendances

• 19% reduction in emergency admissions 

• 26% reduction in ambulance see, treat, convey

• 39% reduction in OOH GP 

• 45% reduction in NHS111 

• Reduction in MH demands for Police

• 20% reduction in home treatment caseloads

•72% of people report a good or excellent experience of the First Response Service


What makes your service stand out from others? Please provide an example of this.

Prior to implementation of First Response Service service users with mental health crisis were attending A&E in large numbers, often by ambulance. These patients were frequently admitted while waiting for psychiatric assessment. Once they had received a psychiatric assessment the majority were not offered any new intervention because they often did not meet threshold for mental health services or were already within services.

The First Response Service has allowed us to provide a more cost effective model of providing crisis care. The telephone triage allows us to introduce a stepped care element into crisis provision e.g. face-to-face assessments for those who are triaged as urgent or high risk, and telephone support with referral to the Sanctuary for others. Use of a standardised mental health triage scale (The UK Mental Health Triage Scale) has helped to ensure that the service is safe and effective. The telephone triage element also allows us to have one team which covers the whole CCG area.

Joint working with the voluntary sector in providing the Sanctuary has allowed us to provide cost-effective high quality supportive safe spaces for patients, at a fraction of the cost of an emergency department attendance, and with greater therapeutic impact. Placing three mental health nurses in the Force Control Room to advise staff and police officers in the community on responses and pathways for individuals presenting with mental health crises have also had a tremendous impact. 

User and carer feedback is extremely positive (please see Outcomes & Evaluation) and the service has been the subject of a high degree of national attention. The service has been showcased at events run by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, ECIP and NHS England, and is likely to be supported as a model to be rolled out nationally.



How do you ensure an effective, safe, compassionate and sustainable workforce?

We recognise that highly skilled workforce is paramount to successful delivery of the service; we ensure this by:

•Upskilling staff, training opportunities and continued professional development – non-medical prescribing, AMHP training, DICES training, KUF PD training – being set up, CAMHS training – being set up, exploring accelerated nursing courses for tele coaches, shadowing other teams, supervision groups, weekly programme of teaching – in-house and also using resources across the Trust•Expanding and sustaining workforce: recruitment and retention – shadow shifts offered within the team – for applicants to further understand the role, ongoing recruitment – replacing leavers etc, team is fully informed of recruitment plan•Staff support and wellbeing initiatives – individual and group supervision including PD specific, stress resilience training, FRS staff experience and acting on feedback (in-house and not reported on).  Will also be provided with CAMHS supervision, use of staff wellbeing resources – all available on intranet which includes mindfulness, recovery college, Insight – counselling, Occupational Health, Physio service, have also had a group art therapy session for the team • Supervision structure, content and frequency – monthly clinical (professional) supervision – individual, monthly managerial (operational) supervision – individual, live supervision throughout the shift due to the nature of FRS, group supervision – 2 weekly with a psychologist, monthly PD supervision – individual if indicated • Reflective practice – part of everyday practice and each practitioner is encouraged to reflect on their daily practice – which will also form part of the live supervision during a shift and also ad hoc supervision when indicated is strongly encouraged (more difficult complex cases) • Supporting people with lived experience within the workforce – following recommendations from occupational health, issues addressed in supervision and action plans developed with individuals where indicated and yes staff with lived experience are present in the team. 


Who is in your team? 

Team Leader B7 1

Clinical Leads – Band 7 (RMN or Social Worker) B7 6

Call handlers (Psychological Wellbeing telecoach – Band 5) B5 14.6

Mental Health First Responders – Band 6 (RMN or Social Worker) B6 14.4


Psychiatrist 1


How do you work with the wider system?

We have worked hard throughout the development and implementation of FRS to ensure that there are strong links with all local services that provide for our patients with mental health problems as illustrated in the diagram below: 

Our Sanctuaries also provide care and support for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and are provided by the third sector (MIND). Sanctuary staff have established strong networks and links across the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough crisis care pathway and are continuously seeking professional support from the 24/7 First Response and other health and social care staff. Social issues such as housing problems are common in patients attending the Sanctuaries which has meant that Sanctuary staff have needed to develop a rapid access pathway to social care services. Similarly drug and alcohol issues are common and Sanctuary staff have been trained by substance misuse staff in the management of these and how to access further help if required.

FRS has also developed strong working relationships with the mental health practitioners in the Integrated Police Control Room that provide advice and support to the police. We are currently working towards a more integrated service that spans all emergency services with specific focus on Frequent Attenders. 

At a strategic level we have a strong local Crisis Care Concordat with sign up from all key stakeholders and supported by a senior manager (joint funding). A Crisis Concordat Delivery Board meets bimonthly and holds to account those responsible for delivering the components of our Crisis Concordat action plan. Partners are working together to shift the emphasis from acute crisis care to more preventative models and work is ongoing to further develop FRS adult & CYP pathways, currently focusing on our BME population, links with emerging models of primary care, improving patient flow and ensuring robust links to the wider local MH system.


Do you use co-production approaches? 

Real patient, carer and public involvement throughout the FRS ongoing development and implementation helps us to ensure openness and transparency, and also ensures that patients are put at the centre of all service developments. This is a fundamental principle that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have signed up to and work hard to achieve, hence we have employed engagement workers who provide our Service User Network (SUN) with the support that they need.

The people using services and their carers are the experts in terms of what works well and what doesn’t, therefore involving them and listening to their experiences and ideas is key to improving and developing services. 

To date patient and carer involvement has comprised of face-to-face briefings as well as written updates through local carer and patient representative groups. Our local service user network (SUN) has played a key role in developing a values framework, supporting patient and carer engagement and ensuring service user representation on the delivery board. Our Sanctuary model was fully co-designed with patients as illustrated in the slides attached (please see Further Information).

Wider public engagement on the Vanguard programme has been managed by the CCG as part of the System Transformation Programme. A number of engagement activities have taken place over the last two years including: Saturday public cafés, public involvement assembly, presentations to community groups and road shows at community healthcare bases, hospitals and GP practices. 

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have a very diverse population with areas of deprivation and rural isolation. The greatest concentration of ethnic groups is based in Peterborough, where the population is approximately 35% black and ethnic minority. It is important that any engagement activity therefore takes into account the diversity of our local communities and this is robustly monitored via the Operational Implementation group as well as local Crisis Care Concordat. As part of ongoing fine-tuning of the service we have recently completed the ‘FRS and Communities Project’ that focused on improving BME communities access to FRS. Currently we have 2 members of FRS team dedicating 15 hours per week to engage and raise awareness of the FRS amongst the minority ethnic (specifically Eastern European and Pakistani) communities of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

The implementation of our service has been clinically-led from the start, with membership on the delivery board from primary care, acute hospitals and mental health specialists. There have been a number of briefings with GPs to develop the model including with our local GP Mental Health Leads. The Crisis Care Concordat also provided the opportunity to discuss the proposals with clinical colleagues across the county. Wider clinical engagement includes colleagues from acute hospitals, third sector, local authorities, ambulance services and the independent sector.


Do you share your work with others? 

Covering a challenged health system with diverse health needs, organisations across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are supporting each other by targeted and proactive communications and engagement activities to ensure stakeholders are consulted, communicated with, and engaged with at the right time, in the right way.


We are committed to sharing as much information as possible with our colleagues at local, national and international levels. This is being done via the following routes: • Meetings arranged and attended with different groups/services, increasing knowledge and continuously liaising with local services within Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

• ECIP (Emergency Care Improvement Programme) – close collaboration to share best practice and on-going development of the case studies that are being shared with other Clinical Commissioning Groups and Community Mental Health trusts across the country

• Regional Crisis Care Concordat Meetings

• UEC Vanguard Quarterly meetings – New Care Models Team (quarterly reviews)

• Regular updates to NHS England to disseminate information on best practice

• Sustainability & Transformation Programme 

• Health+Care National Conference

•East of England Mental Health Commissioning Network


What outcome measures are collected, how do you use them and how do they demonstrate improvement?

Impact to date: 1. The service has demonstrated an immediate decline in the use of ED for MH with a 25% reduction in attendance despite the local context of many years of rapidly increasing figures. 

2. There has also been a 19% reduction in numbers of MH patients admitted to Acute Hospitals from ED 

3. Reduced ambulance call outs, assessments and conveyances to ED for MH patients 

4. Reduced need for OOHs GPs to see MH emergencies

5. The implementation of FRS and the sanctuary has already forced the system to change. Therefore we have seen system transformation for a relatively small amount of money. How we have done this: • Greater integration of DAAT, Local Authority and Mental health services

• Pooled budget arrangements with police to further solidify our commitments to ensuring Safer, Faster better services for our communities

• Statutory and third sector services working more cohesively allowing improvements in the wider MH pathways 6. The service is now responding to people previously unknown to traditional mental health services meaning we are starting to treat our future mental health populations today. This has created a public expectation on the health system to achieve parity of esteem for mental health. 7. The service has changed the way that our patients and professionals are using services. Health visitors, drug and alcohol services, GPs now have a service that they can refer people to which means a reduction in their time. Outcomes: • Improved quality of care – Consistent with national guidance and local Crisis Concordat plan

• Improved patient and carer experience

• Improved patient safety (reduction in overdoses since FRS started)

• Enhanced early detection of severe mental illness and relapse, allowing early intervention

• Reduced pressures on EDs throughout the region through avoiding attendance and diversion from ED front door

• Reduced pressures on ambulance service

• Reduced pressures on GPs especially OOHs

• Increased flow in EDs due to a reduced admission of MH patients to short stay ED assessment units

• Reduced Health Care Utilisation – LTC and IAPT evidence base shows that fully integrated physical and mental health services can have a profound saving on the healthcare utilisation. FRS becomes a conduit for people to deal with health anxieties. Some Service User Feedback:

 “I thought the service was very effective at providing the needed help”

“I was very impressed by the service responding immediately, plus the therapeutic environment”

“Sanctuary is a very good place to go instead of A&E, no waiting times, get an appointment allocated quickly”

“Quick to answer, ask appropriate questions etc”

“I feel the support I get is excellent”

“The lady I saw was kind and professional, and handled my admission to hospital sensitively”

“Thank you for your lifesaving service”

Professional Feedback:

“Just wanted to share some positive feedback from a client who is currently with CRHTT. ..This lady has episodes of transient psychosis and usually requires detention under the MHA.  I first detained her under section 2 a few years ago and she found the whole process of becoming unwell and then being detained, understandably very distressing.  During this most recent episode, however, she was able to access timely support from FRS who advised an increase in her medication and a dose of diazepam and home treatment rather than admission.  This was her preferred choice and did not cause any disruption to her home/ family life…I am happy to let you know that she is continuing to make a recovery without need for either admission or to go through the process of a MHAA and possible detention.  This has really helped her reframe her ability to cope with acute distress and strengthened her skills in self management of her illness.   Thankyou so much as the service has really made a difference.  She returned to work today!” AMHP – home treatment team

“I thought you would appreciate knowing that we have received fantastic support from FRS today…I have had two separate high risk missing person incidents, …On both occasions we have been supported by FRS without reservation, which is something that I will encourage all other Force Duty Manager’s to keep in mind for future similar incidents. – Force Duty Manager, Cambridgeshire constabulary

The Health Visitor stated that the 2 practitioners (from FRS) that she had met on the home visit were friendly and keen to work with the HV team.  …Assessments were able to be integrated seamlessly and the adult mental health team clearly valued the HV team input and vice versa. In addition to this, the HV was impressed with how quickly the mental health team arranged medication for this lady and reassured her regarding her care and follow up…The effect of parental mental health on the baby was clearly recognised and it appears that services within the Trust all worked together in a joined up and responsive way to get a good outcome for the whole family.  Health Visitors

“I used this service last night and it was brilliant.  Was a bit time consuming but ended up with us having a member of their team on scene 40 minutes after our call and they booked the pt straight into oak ward.  Hopefully this is going to be the way forward. From first experience it is a referral pathway that works.”- East of England Ambulance Service


Has your service been evaluated (by peer or academic review)? 

RAND Europe – Transforming Urgent and Emergency Care and the Vanguard Initiative – Final Evaluation Report – 2017

‘The First Response Service (FRS) for patients experiencing mental health crises is also fully operational at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough vanguard, via Option 2 for callers to NHS 111. The FRS supports triage for both self-referred patients as well as patients referred by carers, health professionals and adjacent services such as the police. According to the vast majority of interviewees for the evaluation, FRS is seen to be providing a much-needed service with more appropriate risk management and patient triage and referral than in the past. According to FRS monitoring data (as discussed in Section 4), the service has enabled the more appropriate usage of A&E and NHS 111 by increasing uptake of the FRS by patients with mental health-related care needs. The service has also been reported to have had an impact on freeing capacity within in-hours mental health services and reducing demand on in-hours GPs, who may not be best placed to conduct assessments of patients with mental health conditions.’ – p106

‘For example, the First Response Service (FRS) in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has developed very good links with both statuary and third-sector organisations (e.g. Mind, and the Drugs and Alcohol Service) which are necessary to help service users move beyond the point of crisis. They are strengthening links with the police. In the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough vanguard, more widely, there are signs that organisations have been collaborating more closely in the two years since submitting the bid to become a vanguard.’- p112

‘Ensuring a well-communicated business case, particularly with respect to system-level cost savings, while maintaining or enhancing patient outcomes, is important to get traction and further investments and commitment. We have seen in the FRS case how clinical leadership has focused on the importance of obtaining, monitoring and communicating data from across the local health system, including analysing A&E attendances and admissions, ambulance conveyances and OOH GP appointments in order to link activities, outputs and impacts, and to demonstrate the diversion of mental health patients away from emergency services.’ – p117


How will you ensure that your service continues to deliver good mental health care? 


We have taken the following steps to ensure the newly established crisis care service could be sustained going forward: • The service was part of the Vanguard Programme through partnership working between the CCG, the mental health trust, Cambridge Constabulary and the Voluntary Sector: working together to provide better, safer care that can reduce A&E attendance and therefore also provide cost savings. All the work has been documented using AGILE project management methodologies; Logic Models and Value prepositions have been shared with the NHS England and are being updated on the on-going basis to reflect learning to date. This allowed robust implementation, and minimized delivery gaps. 

• Service users were at the heart of the project from the outset, and had a major role in the service development. We had service user representation at the design stage and at the service development “Delivery Boards”. We continue to receive and use service user and carer feedback as the service develops. Service users and carers have told us that provision of a 24/7 service which they can choose to access themselves (without having to seek referral) when they need it, where they need it, provides an essential safety net, empowering them to manage their illness themselves, knowing the help will be there when they need it. The service is very much built around needs of service users and carers which therefore provide commissioners and providers with assurance that there is a need to continue and sustain the service going forward.  The service users’ voice champions the service. 

• Commitment via the Crisis Care Concordat partnership working to establish a seamless health & care pathway for those experiencing mental health crisis as part of the recently updated action plan with specific emphasis on securing delivery of improved outcomes.

• Financial sustainability – data analytics is in place to showcase that services is reducing activity as per impact outlined in the section above and therefore service is able to pay for itself without creating adverse effects to the system. The service is part of the STP assurance checks and financed accordingly.

•Contractual Framework – the service is underpinned by the robust contractual framework bringing together all the partners.


What aspects of your service would you share with people who want to learn from you? 


Key lessons to be learnt: • Multiple stakeholders involved – need a clear governance structure with wide representation and engagement.

• Patient and third sector representation – how do you democratically select the representatives? We used our existing SUN Network.

• Need for clarity around the requirements of a business case to support long term funding to sustain the service and how to obtain the necessary information – this includes financial information e.g. acute hospital tariffs for MH admissions. • Commissioning & Contracts: the new First Response Service was initially launched only in the Cambridge locality and later rolled-out wider across the whole Cambridgeshire & Peterborough area. Due to the speed of the project had it was difficult to have all necessary contractual arrangements in place which created a number of issues with regard to access, out-of-area payments and subcontracts. 

• Variability in population demographics: the FRS/Sanctuary model was implemented in Peterborough in phase 2 of the project, having proved successful in Cambridge. However, there has been less patient engagement with the service in Peterborough and therefore more work is being done to explore the best models of crisis mental health support for BME communities. This is being addressed via the Crisis Care Concordat and reviewed based on the JSNA results. • DOS: there is a need for an up to date and comprehensive directory of services to include all mental health, local authority, and third sector services. This enables effective supported signposting and needs to be easily accessible e.g. via a mobile app (MiDOS, MyHealth) and now live “one stop” mental health website – (for children, young people and adults across Cambridgeshire & Peterborough). 

Is there anything else you want to share about what makes you an example of positive practice?

Relevant Links:


Population details

Brief description of population (e.g. urban, age, socioeconomic status):

The population of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is growing rapidly. People are generally living longer, so we have an ageing population, and more people have long term conditions or higher levels of obesity. Significant health inequalities exists between South Cambridgeshire and the Fens/Peterborough. While life expectancy is generally higher than the national average in Cambridgeshire, the reverse is true in Peterborough (although there are variations within Cambridgeshire itself).

Size of population and localities covered:

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG is one of the biggest in the country, with 105 GP practices as members, that includes three practices in North Hertfordshire and two in Northamptonshire. CCG serves a patient population of approximately 960,000, which is diverse, ageing, and has significant inequalities.

Commissioner and providers

Commissioned by (e.g. name of local authority, CCG, NHS England): Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG & Cambridgeshire Constabulary

Provided by (e.g. name of NHS trust): Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust & Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind

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