Today is the first anniversary of the transfer of NHS mental health and learning disability services in north Cumbria being transferred into new hands.

On October 1 2019 the services, which has previously been delivered by Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust were transferred to the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW).

Specialising in mental health, the CNTW trust was judged to be in a better position to be able to deliver mental health and learning disability services throughout the northern half of the county.

Reflecting on the first year following the transfer, the CNTW trust's chief executive John Lawlor said that services in the north east and in north Cumbria have "learned so much from each other".

“We are pleased that fewer patients are now having to travel out of north Cumbria to receive inpatient care, and waiting times for busy services such as our Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) have improved, with some services such as our Children’s Learning Disability and Behaviour Support Services having no waiting lists at all," he said.

“Together we have worked towards the aim of improving the outcomes and quality of mental health and learning disability services for local communities in North Cumbria and, despite the Covid-19 pandemic posing huge challenges for us all over the past six months, we are proud of the progress that has been made by the teams.

"Our teams are motivated and will continue to strive to provide the best possible quality of care to communities in north Cumbria.”

Several significant changes to services have been implemented so far this year.

The mental health Crisis Team in north Cumbria now operates "open referrals", meaning that anyone in distress can call the team and ask for support without a referral from a medical professional.

There is now one central point of contact to get in touch with the service - the freephone number 0800 652 2865.

Other changes and new ways of working have been put in place, some as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One focus for the CNTW is on integrating the support it provides with the rest of the health and care system across Cumbria - particularly valuable in the face of the challenges presented by coronavirus.

David Muir, group director for the North Cumbria Locality at CNTW, said: “We have developed close relationships across our communities and are working closely with organisations such as Healthwatch and the Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service.

"We are members of the community forums across the north of the county, and are building links with GPs and Integrated Care Communities.

“One excellent example of this work has been our Older Adults’ Mental Health Team proactively supporting care homes in the region, not only working with patients and care home residents but also supporting care home staff to maintain their resilience and psychological wellbeing as lockdown and the stresses of the pandemic has a significant impact on care homes.”

Jon Rush, chairman of the NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said he was proud of everyone who has contributed to the smooth transfer of services.

“This was a significant change for us and we are proud of the staff who have embraced this change," he said.

We are very pleased to see improvements to areas we knew were challenged, such as waiting times in CAMHS and a reduction in patients travelling out of county for inpatient care."