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Working to deliver the care mental health patients deserve – Dr Geraldine Strathdee

In the second of two blogs, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, takes a further look at crisis care innovations in action:

The commitment to change, the numerous examples of innovation and transformation  and the willingness to share best practice across the country gives real hope that significant progress to mental health crisis care can, and is, being made.

In this second blog, I wish to highlight more areas where these innovations are already unfolding, namely:  improving timely access to the right care, first time and suicide prevention; out of hospital home care, and acute hospital A&E liaison mental health teams.

NHS111 and single point access services

The highest cause of death in young men and women in England is death through suicide, and rapid skilled response through a well-publicised access route is essential to reduce this premature mortality.

The NHS111 Mental Health Programme has been set up specifically to improve services.  NHS England is working with Mind and the Telephone Helplines Partnership to develop a training course designed by people with lived experience specifically to support 111 call handlers deliver the best possible response in times of crisis.

Eight NHS111 services are being piloted and evaluated to explore the impact of different service models. These include direct referrals from NHS111 to local specialist crisis teams, access to mental health professionals within call centres and direct links to street triage services.

The full report will not be available until autumn 2015 but emerging findings have highlighted that the greatest benefit is derived from strong connections and integrated services with NHS111, local MH crisis teams and commissioners of both urgent and MH services working seamlessly and access to a comprehensive local Directory of Services.

Whole system new models of care redesign

In advance of the formal vanguard New Models of Care programme, four local areas have undertaken whole system urgent care transformational redesign. Two are described here:

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear whole system vanguard redesign: One of the most outstanding examples is the large-scale emergency and acute care pathway transformational redesign has been undertaken by the CCG commissioners and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear mental health trust in collaboration with local patients and carers. The service now offers integrated teletriage and telehealth and rapid access to a range of services from housing, social care, 3rd sector services, alcohol and drug, psychological therapy, and other specialist mental health services.

The evaluations are excellent, with high levels of patient, family, GP and other referrer satisfaction. The service is also notable by its productivity, through adaptation of digital technology, which enables staff to provide more treatment in the community through remote access to care records, and the use of digital dictation to reduce clinical time spent at computers.

Bradford whole system vanguard redesign: Bradford District Care trust and its CCG and local partners launched a major ‘whole care pathway’ redesign, with excellent outcomes in the first three months. Importantly, they are evaluating the use of routine suicide assessment, learning from the success of that initiative in Australia.

Street triage and access to healthcare S 136 places of safety

The new collaborations between police forces and local mental health services have been one of the outstanding successes of the Concordat programmes. There are now 26 street triage schemes across England.

Evaluations show that people are triaged more rapidly into specialist mental health, or other appropriate crisis response services, and admissions and detentions under the mental health act are prevented.

Data collected from police forces shows that there has been a reduction in the use of police custody as a place of safety for people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

The data, recorded the figure falling from 6,667 incidents in 2013/14 to 4,537 in 2014/15 (32% reduction). For more info see: ·

Devo Manc area has a highly evaluated street triage and wider crisis service operated between the local police force and Pennine Care trust in Oldham.

Out of hospital community care

Mental health can be rightly proud of its long tradition as the leading specialty in offering care out of hospital care through intensive treatment teams, crisis houses and other alternatives.

Crisis home treatment teams seek to offer commissioned 24/7 response, 365 days a year for rapid response and home care. Currently there is major variation in the services commissioned and provided, and a robust programme of research and evaluation is being undertaken to help commissioners identify how to get the maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

Crisis houses are alternatives to hospital admission and examples include:

New pathway models of urgent care: Hertfordshire Urgent and emergency care commissioner

Commissioned 111 and Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) have commissioned a fast track service whereby callers to 111 are immediately tele triaged to an expanded crisis home treatment team service, with choices of day treatment services and Host family placement schemes as alternatives to admission.

Acute hospital A&E and liaison mental health teams

People with mental ill health have double the ED attendance rate of the general population.

Deliberate self-harm features in the top five reasons for an emergency medical admission year on year – more than 150,000 Emergency Department (ED) attendances a year.

More than 25% of people admitted to acute hospitals have a co-morbid mental health problem. Liaison mental health teams support A&E staff, and provide ‘Right first time’ expert assessment and treatment.

This means that admissions to both acute beds and care homes can be prevented especially for older adults with delirium and dementia and they can be offered care at homes as they prefer

An effective liaison psychiatry service offers the prospect of saving money as well as improving health.

Birmingham RAID is an award-winning service which offers comprehensive mental health support, available 24/7, to all people aged over 16 within the hospital.

So what’s next?

In summary, it’s been a dynamic and active first year of the reform of the mental health urgent and emergency care system.

Mental health champions from all agencies have risen to the challenge, and new collaborations and innovations are being developed and evaluated at increasing pace.

There is a great deal to do to ensure that people in mental health crisis can get the right, compassionate, expert service they need to the same standard of care they receive for physical health.

If we can continue to design the new models of care with people and their families and work together in partnership, we can be optimistic that we can deliver what our patients deserve.

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One comment

  1. Anne says:

    As a carer for two adults with severe and enduring mental health problems I was very upset and annoyed to read that Northumberland purports to have this wonderful emergency and acute care pathway transformational redesign which ‘now offers integrated teletriage and telehealth and rapid access to a range of services’. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it BUT if there are no services it doesn’t matter how rapid the access is!! Northumberland has large areas which are extremely isolated, do not have mobile phone or internet coverage, have no public transport and have a very few Mental health professionals acting like the little Dutchboy with his finger in the Dyke.
    If the NHS internally cannot be honest about its lack of provision then nothing will change. The new pathway may be brilliant in the urban parts of Tyne & Wear but it has not been rolled out in Northumberland and I and many other carers have severe doubts about how it can be. It may look good on paper but please don’r laud it as outstanding until it has been tried and found to actually be an improvement.
    A huge opportunity has been lost in Northumberland because of the Trust system for health funding. a new mega Consultant led A&E hospital has just opened but with any meaningful psychiatric presence. No consultant psychiatrist. So much for raising mental health treatment to be on a par with othe NHS services.