Transforming adult mental health crises at the Riverside Sanctuary Café

When NHS processes got in the way of third sector providers adding value to the community mix, SCW found a way.

The challenge

In the summer of 2019 Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon, and Wiltshire STP (BSW) had a delivery dilemma. The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) had invited bids for the ‘Beyond Places of Safety’ scheme, intended to develop community-based mental health (MH) provision. 

BSW wanted £750,000 for three MH programmes: an MH triage service for 111, increased capacity in community teams and a drop-in crisis café.

Vital to this succeeding was specialist project management - which SCW has. 

The SCW MH team has seven years of successful partnership in the South West and already supported BSW in a range of functions, from running back-office management functions to drafting care contracts. So Georgina Ruddle, BSW’s assistant director for mental health, learning disabilities, and autism called SCW’s Aly Fielden, looking for the delivery partner she needed.

The approach

All three bid schemes presented challenges but one - Riverside Sanctuary in Salisbury - stood out as requiring intensive support because the operators had zero history of working with the NHS. 

It was run by a non-NHS body; a charity called Alabaré wanted to build a crisis café for people suffering mental health crisis or welfare issues. Adaptations to an existing building would provide a venue for safe, accessible support. 

With SCW - and its project management - on-board BSW was successful in all funding bids, and capital was released for Riverside Sanctuary to be developed. 

The SCW team realised it was going to have to stay very close to the project. The alternative was for NHS expectations to overwhelm a charity with no experience of moving through those processes. 

So for six months, Aly worked from Salisbury.

It was a long list of NHS stakeholders: BSW, DHSC, the Ambulance Trust, CCGs via MH Community Crisis Transformation monies... All differing reporting requirements, timescales, and funding release governance.

In combination that could have become overwhelming without the NHS experience SCW brought.  SCW's project management tools meant reports on progress and risk management were something the NHS could easily understand and use. Those projects included building and capital works, as well as designing a new service and operational model.

The outcome 

Doors open - Riverside Sanctuary


Thanks to everyone's hard work Alabaré Riverside Sanctuary opened in March 2020 - on time and on budget.

By misfortune, the opening coincided with the start of the COVID-19 restrictions, but because of contingency planning, the service could still provide phone support to people from the region suffering an MH crisis.

By November 2020, and despite lockdown, Riverside Sanctuary was supporting 177 active clients. Calls had risen from just over 200 in April to over 800 a month in October. 

"Aly was a huge support for the Alabaré team during the entire process. She supported the team to understand NHS jargon, the Secondary Care model and the importance of ensuring Riverside Sanctuary complimented the work of BSW and Primary Care." Emma Wellock, Senior Service Manager

For more information contact: Nadiya Ashraf, Deputy Director Mental Health Transformation


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