Launched in November 2022, the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline aimed to provide the UK’s NHS ambulance staff with immediate and ongoing suicide and mental health crisis care. As it celebrates its 1st birthday, TASC looks back at the impact the service has made so far.
The ground-breaking suicide prevention service was commissioned by and designed in partnership with the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) to give the UK’s NHS ambulance staff an independent and confidential place to seek mental health support, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Offering much more than a listening ear service, TASC developed the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline to provide in-the-moment help to navigate callers to a place of safety and stability, with the service then seamlessly transforming into a consistent and ongoing intensive support programme to reduce callers’ suicidal ideation, increase resilience, and most importantly, keep them safe.
During the launch, Angie Crashley, TASC’s Wellbeing Support Manager, said:
“Over the years, we’ve seen an increasing number of people coming to TASC because they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Until now, ambulance staff have had access to a range of in-the-moment support, such as Samaritans, and ongoing-help, such as Occupational Health or TASC. This new service brings everything together to provide a single point of independent and confidential support.”
Key features of the service include:
- Available 24/7, 365 days a year
- Completely independent and confidential
- Staffed by qualified counsellors with experience of helping blue light workers, and who are supported by clinicians
- Longer-term support is available in the form of a Collaborative Approach to Managing Suicide (CAMS) support programme, which is specifically tailored for people experiencing suicidal thoughts
TASC worked closely with AACE and NHS ambulance services to embed the service in their organisations and ensure staff in need knew the service was available to them.
The service model, together with TASC’s collaborative approach and the mountain of support we received from ambulance staff to raise awareness of the service, has made the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline’s first year a resounding success; the numbers speak for themselves:
- 410 people in crisis have been supported during some of the worst times in their lives
- 168 ambulance staff who were actively planning to take their own life are still alive after calling the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline for professional support
- 68 lives have been saved from imminent danger
TASC’s service user, Penny, says the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline has helped change her life:
“I honestly can’t express enough how grateful I am to the counsellor who took my call when I was feeling so broken. I felt like they scooped me up and placed me somewhere safe. I was immediately picked up and started my counselling, and everything was explained so I knew what to expect. My sessions were absolutely brilliant and the switch in me happened halfway through, and I felt suddenly so much better. I have been taken care of so well, and I feel that I am in a great place.”
Through analysis of how many people are affected by every suicide in the UK, TASC estimates the work of the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline has potentially impacted the lives of up to 23,000 people1 while saving the UK economy up to £410 million2.
Karl Demian, TASC’s Chief Executive Officer, says:
“The strength of the service is the model on which it is based, the consistency of support provided by highly skilled and experienced people, the confidentiality the service provides, and the collaboration with AACE and ambulance services that has made it possible and at its core is compassion for the person in their time of crisis.
The service has continued to develop throughout the year. When we realised that around 40% of callers were in crisis but didn’t identify as experiencing suicidal thoughts, we knew we needed to do something to protect them. We adapted our approach to ensure that following their initial support call, a counsellor would check-in at a later date to ensure they continued to be safe, recognising the importance of prevention. So far 61 additional check-ins have been made.”
The service has also delivered 528 intensive CAMS sessions as around 3 in 5 callers are experiencing suicidal thoughts and are identified as needing longer-term support. Of those who entered the CAMS programme, just over a quarter were identified as needing additional sessions once the programme ended and so far TASC has funded 169 additional mental health sessions for them.
More information about the impact of the service is available in the video below.
The Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline was made possible by funding from NHS England and was commissioned and co-designed by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) on behalf of the NHS ambulance sector. Established in 2011, AACE provides UK NHS ambulance services with an organisation that can support them in implementing nationally agreed policy. Whether for patient care, operational policy, emergency preparedness, employee wellbeing or volunteering, the Association exists to support its members and to act as an interface between them and their stakeholders where appropriate at a national level.
Anna Parry, Managing Director of AACE, said:
“Using funding gratefully received from NHS England, we commissioned TASC to deliver this 24/7 crisis line to primarily support people within the UK NHS ambulance sector experiencing suicidal ideation, but also to provide somewhere people could signpost their colleagues, friends and family members who work or volunteer in the ambulance service to any time, day or night. We are really pleased that the line has been used by people in crisis and that immediate and ongoing support has been offered and accepted. We would strongly advocate people seeking help when in mental health crisis and encouraging their colleagues and friends to do the same – please help us spread the word.”
Karl Demian continues:
“One year in and we know that we have made a difference, and we know that we will keep on striving to make a massive difference to reduce the impact of suicide in the ambulance service and will continue to work with others to share our learning and our passion.
In fact, the service and prevention model has proved so successful that on 1st November 2023 the same service has been launched by The Fire Fighters Charity and the Police Wellbeing Service, Oscar Kilo, are planning to do the same.”
Diane Scott, TASC’s Chair, said:
“Thanks to the support from AACE, the plan of a single-point of independent support for people who are experiencing thoughts of suicidality became a reality in 2022. I am incredibly proud of our TASC team and partners who have worked so hard make this a service a success.”
TASC is delighted by the success of the Ambulance Staff Crisis Phoneline, and it is clear a service like this is needed to provide specialist support to our ambulance family members in need. However, the need to fund additional sessions is increasing pressure on TASC’s already limited resources, and the growing awareness of TASC has significantly boosted demand for our services and unfortunately, we now have a waiting list for people to access our general mental wellbeing services. This is not something we want to do, but as a charity, we rely on your support to continue providing an independent and confidential source of help for the UK’s ambulance staff.
- Centre for Suicide Prevention. (2019). How many people are affected by one suicide? [online] Available at: https://www.suicideinfo.ca/how-many-people-are-affected-by-one-suicide/.
- Parliament.co.uk. (n.d.). Written evidence from the Department of Health (SPR0110). [online] Available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/health-committee/suicide-prevention/written/37662.html [Accessed 25 October 2023].
Includes inflation as figures are originally from 2009