Weston-super-Mare Mental Health Crisis and Recovery Centre – ‘Crisis Cafe’ – Update

Following the recent announcement of the highest scoring bidder for the provision of a mental health Crisis and Recovery centre in Weston-super-Mare (known as the Crisis Cafe, although the ultimate name of the service may be different), Clarity-NSIMHN would like to take this opportunity to recap the involvement of the group in the project so far.

History of the Crisis Cafe Project in North Somerset

In October 2017, what was the North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) published a programme examining how to join up health services in Weston-super-Mare and some surrounding villages to better serve the local community. In the months that followed, the CCG carried out consultations to refine the ideas set out in the programme report, and to identify local priorities for health and social care.

Included in this programme was the intended introduction of a service to provide out-of-hours support to those who were experiencing a period of acute mental health difficulty.

In early 2019, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG)(the successor to North Somerset CCG), who are responsible for sourcing and monitoring health services across the combined area, accelerated efforts to design, procure and introduce such a service, which was by now referred to the ‘Crisis Cafe.’

Clarity-NSIMHN Gets Involved

Members of IMHN’s North Somerset branch, Clarity-NSIMHN, expressed concern about the way these plans were progressing. In particular, the group had particular reservations about the co-production aspect of the service design. Statutory bodies, such as the CCG, are legally obliged to effectively involve service users of mental health services in service design.

In February 2019, members of Clarity-NSIMHN established a dialogue with BNSSG CCG, expressing their concerns and their desire to work with the CCG as part of the planning process. Through these efforts, lead by Clarity-NSIMHN’s chair, Justine, service users began to take an active role in the work to determine what a Crisis Cafe in Weston-super-Mare should look like.

In March 2019, supported by the Independent Mental Health Network, Clarity-NSIMHN facilitated a workshop in Weston-super-Mare town centre. This workshop brought together members of staff at the CCG, service users, carers, and those with lived experience of mental health and substance misuse to discuss how a Crisis Cafe should be run, in order to best serve the community and assist those experiencing a mental health crisis.

In the months that followed, service users from both Clarity-NSIMHN and North Somerset Healthwatch supported the process of finalising a service specification, and the pre-tender process. Clarity-NSIMHN’s input was significant; an example of policy change they instigated was the way in which the Crisis Cafe service would approach working with people who needed to make use of the service due to mental health crises but were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Procurement of a Service Provider

By August 2019, mental health service user representatives from both Clarity-NSIMHN and North Somerset Healthwatch took a further active role in the assessment of provider bids for the Crisis Cafe service, and the identification of a preferred bidder, alongside the CCG and medical professionals.

In September 2019, the successful bidder was announced. Clarity-NSIMHN will continue to be a part of the process of supporting the newly appointed service provider in setting up the service, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2020.

The involvement of Clarity-NSIMHN in the Crisis Cafe procurement process highlights the importance of the voice of those with lived experience of mental health in service design. The unique perspective that branch members can provide was evident by the contributions that service user representatives made to elements of the service specification, and assessing the candidate service provider bids.

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