Mental health campaigners have called on commissioners to fund helplines as a way of tackling health inequalities among ethnic minority communities.

The Mental Health Helplines Partnership, a membership organisation for helplines, has published a report on the levels of telephone-based support for people with mental health problems available across the country.

Launched by health minister Ivan Lewis at the House of Lords last Thursday, the report highlighted regional inequalities and the need for continued funding of helplines.

It states: "The real issue lies within mental health commissioners and their relationships with [black and minority ethnic targeted] helplines.

"Many services revealed that often concerns around high call cost lead to the closure of services of considerable value within local BME communities."

County councils fund 27 per cent of helplines, followed by primary care trusts (23 per cent), trusts (15 per cent), lottery funds (14 per cent), donations (10 per cent), government funds (7 per cent) and charities (6 per cent).

Helplines with interpretation services would help isolated BME groups who are unaware of mainstream mental health services or cannot obtain them via the telephone due to language barriers, the report says.

It recommends more helplines in the south west and north east of the UK.

  • HSJ's Commissioning Mental Health Services conference is in Birmingham on 29 April. It will give advice on delivering flexible, patient-focused services, www.hsj-mhcommissioning.co.uk