Posted on: 7 April 2021

What is Single Point of Access?

Single Point of Access (SPA) is the 24-hour mental health advice line for urgent mental health referrals into CNWL. Since November 2015, it operates as an energetic and highly skilled team, juggling many responsibilities. SPA take calls from:

  • NHS 111 callers
  • The London Ambulance Service and The Police
  • Patients and Carers
  • Third Sector Services
  • GPs
  • Housing Support Services

We spoke to Selena Cox, Service Manager, and Gemma Morris, Team Manager, to discuss all things SPA.

Who makes up the SPA team?

“Our team is made up of Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Psychotherapists, a Social Worker and a Consultant Psychiatrist. We also have a big administrative team who are very skilled at dealing with crisis calls but they also handle the paperwork.” – Gemma

“We’re pretty much fully recruited now. We have 12 Clinicians, 10 Admin staff, and then there’s 5 Senior Clinicians and Managers including myself” – Selena

SPA Team Picture.jpg

Roughly how many referrals do SPA receive?

“We receive between 150 and 200 referrals each week – for the small team that we are, that’s quite a lot. Last week, we had 1938 calls on top of all the referrals. At certain stages of the pandemic, we’ve received up to 7000 calls in a single month.” – Selena

How has the feedback been?

“The police have often acknowledged how helpful we are as a response team. There’s been particularly good feedback from Police and Social Services when they’ve struggled to get in contact with other parts of the service – they can get the information they need from us within minutes.” – Gemma

“This is the whole point of our service. Before us, a lot of people didn’t always know where to go for help and they would often be handed off to other services. We try to deal with what we have in front of us.” – Selena

How have your team coped during Covid?

“Covid has been a rollercoaster! We’ve really had to adapt our ways of working to ensure that we’re working at a socially distance capacity – this has meant remote working for some staff. However, we also wanted to keep the core team working in the office because we are a crisis service – we deal with a lot of difficult stuff and we didn’t want our staff dealing with too much in isolation” – Gemma

“Our team has worked so well under very difficult circumstances. The office space is tiny given the size of the team so there’s no hiding place. Sometimes that’s a bad thing but it also makes us aware when someone’s upset or angry –we can give that person support and be there for them. As a team, we usually like to socialise over a curry but that’s not exactly been possible this last year. We sometimes get Deliveroos into the office – we have pizza Friday! Food is definitely a team healer for us so we try to have meals together as regularly as possible. One of our administrator’s relatives, Lynne (we call her Auntie Lynne) has been sending us baked cakes since the start of the pandemic which is really lovely.” – Selena

What else should people know about SPA?

“It’s important for people to know the extent to which people in our catchment areas are struggling and calling in – people are feeling lonely, isolated and more deprived than usual. I had a call from a guy in his 70s who was spending Christmas and Boxing Day alone. He couldn’t get an online delivery on his phone so he didn’t have any food. These people aren’t our patients usually but they’re in really hard situations and they’re very grateful for what we do – even if we just have a 10-15 minute conversation with them and link them up with third sector services.” – Gemma

“You get such a range of different calls – everything from someone who can’t receive a Christmas food delivery to the mother of someone acutely psychotic and everything in between as well. Everyone in the team genuinely cares about what they do which makes me really proud – everyone in the team goes that extra mile. A lot of them take their worries about work home with them – I wish they didn’t but it happens because they care so much.” – Selena

What’s next for the SPA Service?

“Going forward, we’re doing a project with Think 111 First and we’re working with CAMHS (Children and Adolescent’s Mental Health Services) towards building an all-age SPA. Reflecting on the calls we have, I believe we need to think more creatively about how we deliver our service. Gemma has just started a project looking at other ways of providing a triage – potentially via text or email or WhatsApp. Young people may be less likely to engage and communicate over the phone so we’re looking at that as well.” – Selena

More information on Single Point of Access can be found here.