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by | Friday, March 26th, 2021 | News

People who are experiencing a mental health crisis and are waiting to be seen at an Emergency Department are benefitting from a new project which aims to ease demand and get people supported sooner.

The Alternative to Emergency Department (A2ED) provides a safe alternative to the Emergency Department (ED) for people needing urgent mental health support across Devon.

The service runs three nights a week, taking direct referrals from the police and ambulance services, NHS 111, Livewell’s First Response mental health crisis service and the Headspace crisis café. The service also helps to divert people away from the ED to receive a more timely assessment.

A2ED launched in January as part of our response to winter pressures on healthcare services. Initially, the scheme was just in Plymouth but has now widened to include the wider Devon area and will continue running until the end of May.

Lisa Gimingham, Deputy Head of Service, Place and Urgent Care, said: “Winter is always a very busy time for Emergency Departments, and the Coronavirus pandemic has only added to these pressures.

“Typically, a person attending ED while experiencing a mental health crisis can wait for a very long time to see a mental health professional – sometimes up to as many as five or six hours.

“We wanted to be able to help these people receive quick access to the professionals that can help them best and, after visiting Aldershot where a similar project was already in place, A2ED was born.”

A2ED is based in the city centre and operates from 5pm with patients being seen between 6pm and midnight. With a large and friendly waiting area which allows for social distancing and plenty of assessment rooms, it provides a calm space for people waiting to be assessed.

Lisa explained: “The service is staffed by people who already work elsewhere within Livewell with support from NHS Professionals and a peer support worker provided by Headspace.

“Typically we have a Band 6 registered mental health practitioner leading the team – this could be a nurse, occupational therapist or social worker for example – supported by others of different bandings with a minimum of three people working at any one time.

“While there are other mental health services in the city that aim to prevent people from experiencing a crisis, A2ED makes a material difference to those who need urgent help now.

“As well as direct referrals from the emergency services, NHS 111 and other mental health services people are also diverted from the ED with taxis provided to get them to A2ED and then home again following their assessment.

“Just as if they had been seen by ED, people requiring a secondary service such as further support from our Home Treatment Team will have their referral to these services made by the A2ED team.

“So far we’ve helped 24 people to receive help quickly, which has also freed up more time for the ED to treat people with urgent physical health needs. The only time someone experiencing a mental health issue would now remain in ED is if they also have a physical health need.

“We’re really pleased that this vital service has now been extended to May, and we will also be extending our opening hours on Easter Monday and 17 April when we will be open from 9am until 1am the next day.”

Note: A2ED takes professional referrals only and is not available for drop ins. Self-referrals can be made to the First Response Service who can then refer someone to A2ED.

If you are experiencing mental health issues, the following support is available:

First Response

The First Response Service is made up of Video/Telecoaches (Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners), Mental Health Practitioners and Approved Mental Health Professionals who use their expertise to offer a blended health and social care approach to help you if you are experiencing a mental health crisis.

As well as offering support over the phone, the team also carry out face to face visits when necessary and can offer support to you virtually via the Livewell Connect app.

Livewell’s First Response Service is available to contact 24/7 by calling 0800 923 9323.


Plymouth Options and other IAPT services 

Plymouth Options offers a range of services to people experiencing common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, stress and emotional stress due to life events.

People who are aged over 16 and are registered with a Plymouth GP can self-refer by clicking here. If you are unable to refer in this way please call 01752 435419.

For people who are not registered with a Plymouth GP but who live in Devon and are aged over 18, you can access Devon Partnership Trust’s TalkWorks by calling 0300 555 3344 or self-refer via

For people aged over 16 who live in Cornwall you can access Cornwall Partnership Trust’s Outlook South West. Self-refer via


In an emergency 

If you feel at high risk to yourself or others please contact your GP or call 111. If you are at immediate risk please call 999.

Livewell’s First Response Service is also available to contact 24/7 by calling 0800 923 9323 for anyone aged 18+ in Plymouth experiencing a mental health crisis.

Devon Partnership’s First Response Service is also available to contact 24/7 if you live elsewhere in Devon on 0808 196 8708.

There are also the following support services available: 

Headspace: 07890 257614 (7 days a week, 5pm – midnight)
Valued Lives: 01209 901438 (7 days a week, 5pm – midnight)
Samaritans: 116 123 (free from mobile or landline)
SHOUT: 24/7 text service – text SHOUT to 85258
SANE: 0300 304 7000, 3pm – 10:30pm
Papyrus: 0800 068 4141, for young adults
CALM (Campaign against living miserably) for men: 0800 58 58 58
Childline: 0800 11 11
Marbles Lost and Found: emergency contacts


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