Young people encouraged not to let stigma stop them from accessing mental health support

Children and young people are reminded not to suffer in silence when it comes to their mental health.

Anxiety or stress is currently the top reason for young people in Portsmouth accessing counselling via the Kooth digital wellbeing service. Kooth provides a safe and anonymous space for those who might not feel confident in accessing traditional face to face services and is free for Portsmouth’s young people to access.

Darren*, aged 17, from Portsmouth, reached out to Kooth’s counselling team due to feeling lonely and experiencing low mood. He had bottled up his emotions, not talking to his parents or any other trusted adult due to the stigma that he felt exists around mental health.

Darren realised he needed a professional to talk to, but felt speaking face to face was too difficult. He took the step of logging onto, which provides easily accessible and anonymous access to support from skilled professionals. Darren began the process of opening up and is now having ongoing sessions with Kooth’s counselling team.

Young men like Darren might not reach out for support via traditional routes like their GP, however, online support can feel easier. He is now accessing the support he needs and the Kooth team have continued to help him reach his goals to improve his mental health and build confidence to talk to other trusted adults around him.

Commissioned by Health and Care Portsmouth in January this year, Kooth has helped young people to be supported more quickly. 11-18 year olds (up to age 25 for care leavers or those with an Education Health and Care Plan) can register themselves anonymously at, with no referrals or waiting lists.

The site is available 24/7, with counselling available 12pm – 10pm Monday to Friday and 6pm – 10pm at weekends, all year round. In addition to counselling, the site offers a range of self-help resources and wellbeing activities. Young people can join moderated forum discussions about a range of topics, and use a daily journal to track their feelings and reflect on how they’re doing.

All Portsmouth users surveyed on the site say they would recommend Kooth to a friend.

The commissioning of Kooth forms part of Portsmouth’s 2020-2023 Social, Emotional and Mental Health Strategy for children and young people, which includes a focus on ensuring early help is available to support emotional wellbeing and mental health needs, preventing difficulties from escalating and requiring specialist mental health services.

Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education, said:

“No-one should feel embarrassed or ashamed that they’re struggling with their mental health. It happens to lots of people, especially after going through some of the challenges that Covid has presented like not being able to see friends or family, having to study at home and not being able to take part in activities that you enjoy. Lots of successful public figures like sports stars, actors and musicians have started to talk about difficulties they’ve faced with their mental health and I hope that this will normalise it and encourage young people to open up when they’re struggling and be willing to ask for support when needed.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to further enhance our mental health support for young people with an online service as they told us that they liked accessing support this way, especially the ability to remain anonymous. It’s even better that we’ve been able to launch it during the pandemic when we know so many people are finding that their mental wellbeing has been impacted.”

Alison Jeffery, Director of Children’s Services at Portsmouth City Council, added:

“Digital solutions are an important part of our mental health strategy for young people and have become even more essential due to Covid-19, which led to a requirement for remote options as well as increased demand for services. We’re pleased that Kooth has enabled more young people to be supported, more quickly, especially during these challenging times.

“By providing young people with a highly accessible and anonymous way to access support safely from experienced counsellors we hope this is helping to mitigate any stigma that young people may feel about accessing support for their mental health.”

For more information about Kooth and other mental health support services for young people in the city, visit


*Darren is a pseudonym

Help shape the women’s health strategy

The Department of Health and Social Care are seeking your views to help inform the development of the government’s women’s health strategy.

The consultation aims to build a better understanding of women’s experiences of health, and the health and care system. This will help shape a new women’s health strategy to better meet women’s needs.

The Department of Health and Social Care is keen to hear from as many women as possible, from all ages and backgrounds, about what they think works well and what needs to change. You can find more about the consultation, as well as information on the Women’s Health Strategy here.

The public survey is open to everyone aged 16 and over and will take about 15 minutes to complete. It closes on 30 May 2021.

You can find the survey here:

Positive Minds is back open for face to face support from today

Positive Minds is a partnership between Portsmouth CCG, Solent NHS Trust and Solent Mind, the local mental health charity. The mental health support service is based in central Portsmouth and has been delivering fantastic online support over past last year.

The service offers a new way to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of Portsmouth residents, with a safe environment to provide support to individuals before they reach a crisis point.

The service looks and feels very different to traditional NHS services whilst providing a welcoming and supportive atmosphere. This gives people somewhere they feel able to turn to when they face periods of distress in their lives which might feel overwhelming.

It is also a place where people can meet others who have experienced similar struggles to them. So the reopening of face to face support will be incredibly impactful for many.

Claudia, Wellbeing Advisor at Positive Minds is ready to welcome people back in person.
She says:

“We recognise that coming out of lockdown will be really difficult for many people, so we are still available over the phone while we adjust. We are really looking forward to seeing people face to face, while following the government guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety. If you’re anxious about the changes in any way, please reach out to us.”

Due to the relaxation of restrictions, the service can now once again accept face to face appointments with mental health professionals and ‘peer supporters’ – people with personal experience of living through periods of mental and emotional difficulties.

To ensure the safety of users, Portsmouth residents will have to book an appointment in advance, but often one will be available on the same day. To book an appointment call 023 9282 4795 – or for more information, visit


Tips for adjusting to life as we come out of lockdown

Take your time – If you have something coming up, you don’t have to do it all at once. You can open the front door for a bit, step out into the garden or street, and when you’re feeling ready, take a walk around the block.

Be kind to yourself – If you don’t feel ready for social events, don’t feel pressured to attend right away.

Learn some techniques to manage anxiety – If you start to feel anxious, focus on taking deep breaths, counting out seconds as you do it. Do this for as long as you need to.

Talk about it – If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, don’t keep it to yourself. Speak to people you trust about how you are feeling or contact Positive Minds.

New COVID-19 vaccine research facility to open in Portsmouth

Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU), in collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has secured funding to open a new COVID-19 vaccine research facility in the city.

Located at the John Pounds Centre, the Portsmouth Research Hub will open later this month to help deliver additional COVID-19 vaccine trials, as prioritised by the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce.

As the NHS rollout of approved vaccines progresses, research trials into other COVID-19 vaccine candidates will continue to collect important information such as which vaccines work best for different groups of people and which vaccines offer the most protection against variants of concern.

The Portsmouth Research Hub will provide local residents with the opportunity to take part in COVID-19 vaccine research and help researchers answer these questions.

Professor Anoop Chauhan, Director of Research and Innovation at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, said:

“We’re excited to be expanding our COVID-19 vaccine trial programme and opening a new research facility in Portsmouth.

“Thousands of local volunteers have already taken part in COVID-19 vaccine research and we’re pleased that the new Portsmouth Research Hub will create more opportunities for people to get involved.”

“We need people from every part of the UK population to consider taking part in COVID-19 vaccine research so that we can continue to find a range of safe and effective vaccines to help us tackle the global pandemic.

“We’re calling on the people of Portsmouth who are interested in taking part in COVID-19 vaccine research to visit the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry to find out more and sign up.”

The NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry, which enables the UK public to support the national effort to speed up vaccine research, was launched in July last year. Since then, over 450,000 people have already signed up, giving their permission to be contacted about taking part in COVID-19 vaccine research.

The UK public can continue to support the national effort to speed up vaccine research and receive more information about volunteering for future vaccine studies by visiting

Special Online Class for Embroidery Enthusiasts

The D-Day Story museum in Portsmouth has teamed up with the Royal School of Needlework to offer some very special embroidery classes online. The classes are accessible to anyone and each attendee will be given a free ticket to The D-Day Story.

Anyone who joins the online class can also hear more about the museum’s Overlord Embroidery, stitched by the Royal School of Needlework from 1968 to 1974 in an exclusive presentation. The Overlord Embroidery is a stunning 83 metre hand-stitched embroidery which tells the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

James Batney, The D-Day Story Manager said, “We are proud to be able to continue working with the Royal School of Needlework and offer the Goldwork embroidery classes online. These fascinating classes have proved to be very popular and so people are encouraged to book their places as soon as possible.”

The next available class will take place on Friday 23 April 2021. You can book your place and find out more at

Reading Friends comes to Portsmouth

An opportunity to connect people, especially those who might be isolated or missing seeing friends, is now available in Portsmouth. Reading Friends is a programme aimed at people who enjoy talking about books and would like to make new friends in lockdown. Reading Friends can be accessed via The Library Service.

Reading Friends is a UK wide innovative, reading befriending programme from The Reading Agency and has been developed with funding from The National Lottery Community Fund.

Cllr Steve Pitt, Deputy Leader of Portsmouth City Council and Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Economic Development said, “Reaching out to people who are isolated or just missing companionship is very important right now. Reading Friends is doing just that, bringing people together to read, share stories, meet new friends and have fun. We will be using reading – whether books, magazines, newspapers, or anything else to get people talking.”

The Library Service will arrange for Reading Friends to meet on Zoom in small groups or talk over the phone one-to-one. However, when lockdown is over it may be possible for Reading Friends to meet in person in a library. If you’re interested in joining a Reading Friends group or getting a phone call from a Reading Befriender, contact Pat Garrett at or call 023 9268 8259.

Also, we are looking for Reading Befrienders – people to run the Reading Friends groups or call Reading Friends on the phone. If you’re interested in volunteering then register your interest at…/reading-friend-befr…/  and somebody will be in touch.

Portsmouth rough sleepers receive COVID-19 vaccination

Partnership working enables vulnerable homeless residents to get protected

Portsmouth City Council in partnership with Brunel Primary Care Network and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have provided the COVID-19 vaccine to 83 rough sleepers and hostel residents in the city. This was done as an outreach programme visiting Hope House hostel and rough sleepers in key spots across the city using a van provided by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS).

The vaccination programme is being delivered to those at highest risk but rough sleepers are likely to miss an invitation due to their lack of postal address, not being registered with a GP or not having an accurate record held of their health conditions. Their living situation increases the likelihood of them suffering poor health which means they’re more likely to be negatively impacted if they catch COVID-19. Their circumstances also make it harder to follow good hygiene practices, which we know is important in avoiding catching the virus.

The vaccines were delivered by staff from Brunel Primary Care Network, who were taken around the city in an outreach van provided by HFRS and driven by one of their firefighters. The community safety contact point vehicle visited Hope House hostel, Commercial Road during times when Helping Hands were providing meals for rough sleepers, and North End high street.

Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said; “It’s important that all of our residents are enabled to live healthy lives. We know that the COVID-19 vaccination is our way out of the pandemic and we want to make sure that everyone, regardless of their living situation, has the opportunity to access it.

“This is a great example of partnership working for the benefit of the city and I’d like to thank everyone involved.”

Carole Phillips, Clinical Director of Brunel Primary Care Network, said; “We’re pleased to have been part of this piece of work and help to protect some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.”

HFRS Watch Manager Simon Bates said: “We were pleased to be able to get involved in this scheme to help some of the most vulnerable members of the community. The response from those getting vaccinated was great to see and really rewarding.”

Claire Haque, a manager at Two Saints, said; “Some of our residents have been anxious about Covid. Many are reluctant to visit health care settings though for fear of being judged so it’s fantastic that they were able to get vaccinated in a place that they’re more comfortable.”

Kimberley Brown, a user of our rough sleeper services, said that getting the vaccine was easy and she’s glad she’s had it done.

This is the latest piece of activity in our co-ordinated effort to support rough sleepers during the pandemic, which includes:
• Providing self-contained accommodation to rough sleepers and those on the brink of becoming homeless in two hotels in the city and delivering healthcare in these settings
• A new supported pathway to help rough sleepers to move from the streets to permanent and sustainable accommodation, which has seen 99 people who were using the emergency hotel accommodation move into settled homes
• Our outreach team, along with our community wardens, working with newly homeless people or those at risk of sleeping rough
• Supporting the new In-Reach Service at QA Hospital which helps rough sleepers with mental health difficulties access the health care they need and ensures that no one is discharged on to the streets
• Developing proposals to establish a new drug and alcohol support service for rough sleepers

An online event is taking place on 17 March to reflect on the work done by multiple organisations across the past 12 months to support rough sleepers and to talk about our aspirations to tackle the issues of housing and homelessness in the city moving forward.

To find out more and register for a place visit:

vaccinating rough sleepers

Improving support for service families survey

Local naval families are being invited to share their views about wellbeing support to help shape a brand new service being launched by Solent Mind.

The Hampshire mental health charity are looking to improve access to wellbeing services for serving personnel families of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who either live in (or have a family member with a posting in) Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport or the Isle of Wight.

Serving personnel households face unique and unpredictable challenges, which can affect the mental health and wellbeing of family members. Partners, parents and children of serving personnel of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines are invited to share their experiences via the survey.

The research will help Solent Mind to understand the ways in which they can support service families and these insights will be used to help develop a new wellbeing service.

To take part in the survey, please visit




More people invited to come forward and book their COVID-19 vaccination

Solent NHS Trust, who provide COVID-19 vaccines at the four large-scale vaccination centres across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, are encouraging people aged 65 and over, those recently added to the government’s shielding list and adult carers in receipt of a carers allowance to go online and book their vaccination, or call 119.

This week letters will also be going out to local people who are aged 64 inviting them to book.

The four large scale vaccination centres have good appointment availability and are spread across the area at:

  • Basingstoke Fire Station
  • St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth
  • The Riverside Centre in Newport on the Isle of Wight
  • Oakley Road in Millbrook, Southampton

David Noyes, Chief Operating Officer at Solent NHS Trust, said: “We are really proud to be playing a key role in the NHS’s biggest ever vaccination programme. It has been fantastic to see the positive reactions of people as they receive their first doses.”

David Noyes continued: “We know that the vaccination is a real way out of this pandemic. We are encouraging eligible people to book their vaccination online using the national booking system, or to call 119 if they are unable to use the internet.

“Anyone aged 65 to 69 who has not yet been vaccinated is now being urged to respond to their recent invite to get their life saving coronavirus vaccine.

“People who have been added to the government’s shielding list and people in receipt of carers allowance can now book an appointment. They do not need to wait for a letter.

“We have appointments available and you can choose the centre which best suits you.”

People need an appointment to get their vaccine – they cannot just walk in without an appointment. Appointments are released regularly and there are good levels of availability, usually within a day or so, at each of the centres.  More slots are released every couple of days, so people should keep checking back.

If people have already been given an appointment by their local GP-led service, they should attend that and not book another through the national service.  If people would prefer to be vaccinated by their local (GP) vaccination service, they can wait to be called by their surgery.

Vaccinations are being offered to people in line with recommendations from the independent JCVI.

Ensuring all eligible people have the opportunity to be vaccinated


In just two months, the health service has vaccinated more than 10 million people, visited 10,000 care homes and issued over six million invitations from the National Booking Service.

The last invites to those aged 70 and over on the Shielded Patients List who are yet to be vaccinated have now either been delivered or are due to arrive this week (w/c 8th Feb), meaning vaccines have been offered to everyone eligible whose contact details the NHS has.

To ensure that nobody is left behind, the NHS is now asking people in this group who have not had their first dose yet to come forward now and make an appointment.

Members of the public not in these groups will still need to wait to be contacted.

How this will work

Anyone aged 70 and over or on the Shielded Patients List (because they are clinically extremely vulnerable) will be able to use the National Booking System to book an appointment without needing a letter, provided they are registered with a GP (so that records can be matched). Members of the public not in these groups will still need to wait to be contacted.

The National Immunisations Management Service is also making follow up phone calls and sending reminder letters to people to offer help and advice on booking an appointment. Follow up text messages are also planned where we have people’s mobile phone number.

GP services will also be following up this week with any of their patients in this group they are yet to vaccinate, particularly those on the Shielded Patients List. They will also be working to ensure housebound patients are protected before the end of the week, with additional funding of £10 per patient being provided to help them do this.

What this means for the public

People will be encouraged to arrange an appointment at a Vaccination Centre or community pharmacy-led service by visiting, where they can choose a time slot and location that suits them.

People should try to use the website where possible. For those who can’t, they can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. The phone line can get very busy, so people may choose to ring later in the day when it is less busy. British Sign Language, text relay and interpreter services are available.

People over aged 70 and over or on the Shielded Patient List can also choose to wait to be invited by a local GP-led service, or contact them directly if they haven’t heard anything – which may be because they are not currently registered. We would encourage anyone who isn’t already to register with a GP; no proof of address or immigration status is needed.

What this means for frontline health and social care workers and care home residents

Action is underway to continue to offer vaccines to every eligible health and social care worker. This is being led by employers, including local authorities and NHS organisations.

By the end of January NHS teams had visited all of the care homes they were able to. Visits will continue to homes which had outbreaks when it is safe to do so, and repeat visits are also underway to homes to ensure residents and staff who were elsewhere or ill at the time of the first visit can receive their first dose too.


Does this mean people can turn up at vaccination services without an appointment?

No. People will still need to make an appointment in advance before going to any vaccination service. This is important because booking slots are carefully managed to allow for social distancing and the number of appointments is based on the supply available that day.

Do I need to know my NHS number to use the booking website/phone line?

No. It’s easier if you do have your NHS number, but if you don’t both the NHS booking website and phone line can still book appointments using other details, provided you are registered with a GP practice.

You can find your NHS number on the NHS App or at

If I’ve already had my first dose will I be able to book my second in this way?

No. You will only be able to book if our records show you have yet to have your first dose. If you have already had your first dose, please wait for the NHS to contact you about your second.

What if I don’t live close to one of the large Vaccination Centres?

The National Booking Service also handles booking for pharmacy-led vaccination services, of which there are around 200 across the country. Only a small number of people don’t live within travelling distance of at least one of these services.

Alternatively, you can also choose to wait to be contacted by your local GP services. If they haven’t been in contact already, this will be soon.

Does the NHS have the capacity and supplies available if lots of people now book?

The vast majority of people in these groups have already either had their first dose or are booked in to be vaccinated shortly.

The NHS is confident that the supplies and booking slots are available to accommodate the expected number of people who may now come forward.

Why have I not been contacted by anyone about a vaccination?

If you are 70 or over or on the Shielded Patient List, then you it is likely that you have been contacted by the NHS already.. If you haven’t, this could be for a number of reasons, but is most likely to be because you are not registered with a GP or have recently moved, and we therefore don’t have your contact details.

If you have never registered with a GP or haven’t been to a GP for a number of years, we would recommend speaking with your local practice about registering.

As well as getting access to Covid-19 vaccines, being registered with a GP also means you are invited to important health checks such as for cancer or heart disease, and can access care easier when you need it.

More information on registering with a GP is available at

Will this approach also apply to the next priority groups when it is their turn to be vaccinated?

No. For the moment this only applies to people aged 70 and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

When the time comes to start vaccinating other priority groups, this will be by invitation only so that we can manage the supplies of vaccines available in the fairest possible way.

How do I get an NHS number?

You may already have an NHS number but just don’t know it. If you don’t know your NHS number, you can find out if you have one and what it is at:

If you don’t have an NHS number this is likely to be because you are not registered with a GP. If this is the case, we would recommend speaking with your local practice about registering.

As well as getting access to Covid-19 vaccines, being registered with a GP also means you are invited to important health checks such as for cancer or heart disease, and can access care easier when you need it.

More information on registering with a GP is available at

What if I book an appointment through the NHS website or 119 and I need to rearrange it?

If you need to rearrange an appointment that you booked through the NHS website, you can do this through the ‘manage your appointments’ section on the booking page.

If you booked through 119, you can also ring to rearrange your appointment.

If you can’t attend your appointment for any reason, please cancel or rearrange it so that the appointment slot can be given to someone else who needs it.

Can I still book if I previously had an appointment but didn’t attend or cancel it?

Yes. Only those who have had a vaccination recorded are marked on our system and are therefore unable to book again.

A letter came to my home but it was for someone else. Can I still use it to book an appointment?

No. Unless you are aged 70 or over or on the Shielded Patients List you will not be able to book an appointment.

If you receive a letter for someone who does not live at your address anymore, please return to sender in the usual way so that our records can be updated.