After a week of mixed messages, the closure of Bristol’s mental health crisis line is confirmed.
Bristol Mental Health have announced that the mental health crisis line is in fact closing. BMH put out three statements in the last week – one to announce the closure, one that appeared to back pedal, and then another that reiterated the closure – during a communications gaff which has led to concerns about the anxiety that such unclear communication can cause.
Service user groups and members of the public have expressed concern over the move, which is due to happen on November 30th. The crisis line currently operates as a 24/7 public line for those experiencing mental health crisis to reach specialist support. BMH are proposing to limit access to the crisis team number to individuals already receiving support from mental health services, but not to run a publicly accessible service.
BMH originally announced their intention to shut the service last Friday, leading to a public statement of concern from Bristol Independent Mental Health Network (BIMHN) and an online petition which garnered over 100 signatures within days. Another has since been launched by BIMHN.
On Monday, BMH produced another press statement which appeared to back pedal from their previous announcement. They emphasised that “this is not a service cut, but a service redesign”, and that they were changing the way the service was managed.
They addressed some problems of misuse of the line and added, “It is for this reason that the decision has been made to change the way this service is managed. As part of this, we will identify options that give more appropriate responses to those ringing the line (emphasis added).”
BIMHN said at the time that they welcomed the “climb down”.
BMH then sent another statement on Wednesday, which stated that despite their earlier assurances, “the public crisis line will no longer operate”.
“We don’t think the communication has been particularly clear and we’re concerned about the anxiety it’s causing people,” said Tom Renhard, secretary of BIMHN. “We’ve had three statements in a week.”
Further discussion regarding the closure will take place between BMH, the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group and service users groups in September.