Spotlight On - The First Response Service

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in Mental health, News on 3rd May, 2023

We spoke to Jacqui Thomas, Clinical Practice Lead in the First Response Service (FRS) team based in Exeter, about the support they provide, some of the challenges they face and what they do to unwind.

What is the main purpose of your team? And what does a typical day look like?

The FRS is an urgent mental health service for people with mental health and learning disability needs.  We make sure people receive the right mental health support at the right time, from the right service. We work 24/7, every day of the year and cover the whole of Devon, except Plymouth.

Day-to-day, we triage and risk assess people calling into the service and those who have been referred by other health or emergency professionals. As well offering support over the phone, we also complete face-to-face mental health assessments.

What qualifications and training do the team have? And what career paths have people taken?

Our team is made up of Support Workers, Telecoaches, Clinical Leads, a Senior Mental Health Practitioner, a Peer Support Worker, a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist. We also have an admin and management team.

People in our team have a variety of qualifications, including; medical training, nursing,
psychology, business administration, midwifery, social work, drug and alcohol support, coaching, family therapy and psychotherapy. The team also have training in solution-focused therapy.

Some members of the team have recently gone to train in the new Clinical Associate in Psychology (CAP) roles within DPT. This helps provide a psychological perspective and short-term interventions, especially for those who call into the service frequently and are not under a community mental health team.

What are some of the challenges the team faces?

We receive a huge amount of calls, particularly on Friday afternoons and evenings. It’s difficult when we receive calls from people who do not have any NHS number because we are not able to have a background on the person to assist with establishing any unknown risks or physical health issues.

It’s also very challenging if our phone lines or IT system goes down. We have a very clear business continuity plan which involves relocating the whole service to another building with DPT usually in Wonford House, Exeter. We can do this very quickly to avoid causing much disruption to the service.

What do you enjoy most about being part of this team? And what motivates your team?

This team is the most respectful, inclusive and supportive team I have ever worked with. They do an amazing job in helping someone who is in a mental health crisis.

We motivate each other when on shift by sharing our knowledge and experience when we have a difficult call. We always want and try to do the best for the people calling in and for each other.

What achievement is your team most proud of?

We started up during the first COVID-19 lockdown, which was a big achievement. We’ve gone from a very small team to a team of around 50 people providing mental health support to the whole of Devon (excluding plymouth).

What is the best bit of feedback you have received from a patient or service user?

We receive a lot of good feedback for the work we do. People have been very grateful for our interventions and carers have also provided positive feedback. There have been so many good comments it is hard to say just one.

What do you and your team do to unwind?

We like to have fun together on our days off. Our team has a great sense of humour. We sometimes go to the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth to see Ashley, our mascot donkey for FRS. We often take our families along too. It’s a great day out.

Food is a big part of our community. We like cooking nice foods to bring in for the team and we enjoy dining out together.

Some of us also enjoying playing games, including Escape Rooms. We had our first away day this year which involved looking at team dynamics in the morning and after lunch we took part in fun activities such as archery, pilates and bowling.

And finally... how would you sum up your team in one word?

Dedicated and welcoming.