mobile phoneAn e-learning package is being developed that aims to better equip NHS 111 call handlers to help people experiencing mental health issues.

NHS Arden & Greater East Midlands (GEM) Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) has been commissioned by NHS England to develop the ‘Focus on Mental Health’ training module. The module includes input from people with experience of mental health, who share their feedback on the 111 service through a series of video interviews. The e-learning resource also features video clips from NHS 111 call handlers, who share their own insights on how they have dealt with particular situations.

Currently being tested by three NHS 111 service providers, the module includes four chapters covering issues ranging from building a rapport with callers and showing empathy, to managing challenging situations where perhaps callers are at risks of self-harming or are having suicidal thoughts.

Jeff O’Connell from NHS England said: “NHS 111 call handlers receive calls from people with mental health problems on a daily basis, which often involve a complex range of issues such as physical, emotional, family and social difficulties. We wanted to offer an engaging e-learning resource to staff to enhance existing training, so that they are have the specific skills to deal with calls in the most sensitive and effective way.”

As well as developing the e-learning module in different formats, a suite of complementary communication materials to raise awareness of the training with staff has been produced. Following testing with NHS 111 providers IC24, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Herts Urgent Care over the next few months, the aim is to roll out the e-learning module across all providers after that.

Elise Barker, associate director of NHS Arden & GEM CSU’s engagement, communications and marketing team, said: “This e-learning module has being designed to give handlers the 111 caller’s perspective, helping NHS 111 staff to fully empathise at a time when they might be experiencing serious difficulties. We wanted to ensure the training is easy for people to follow, and comprehensive. Creating clear graphics, combined with videos in bite-sized chunks of information means the 111 call handlers can pick and choose chapters as and when they have the opportunity.”