How developing commissioners will improve mental health outcomes for children and young people

Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health at NHS England explains why commissioners are vital to transforming mental health services, and how a new NHS England development programme is helping them to implement change.

It has never been a better, or more challenging, time to transform healthcare services. It’s something we’re all focused on, doing things differently and better to improve outcomes for our patients.

I believe real transformation will come through looking further ahead, creating medium or longer-term plans, and it is our commissioners who can deliver this.

But do we have the right tools, expertise and networks to do this? Last month we launched a new 12 month development programme to give those who commission mental health services the skills, knowledge, networks and confidence to deliver the whole-system transformation required to improve outcomes for children and young people with emotional, behavioural, psychological and mental health needs.

Children and young people are the flagship of NHS England’s national mental health programme. It is where we can make the biggest difference, for the longest term and commissioners are a vital part of this. Not only do they hold the purse strings and decide how money is best spent on services, they are also beautifully placed to see the broader picture. They can see the strategic problems, and can use this, and evidence, to develop whole-population, longer-term plans. They can also support our providers develop and to implement change and support them to deliver quality, outcome based services.

I know commissioners have the passion to deliver better mental health services to drive up standards for children, young people and their families. However it can be a tough job, which is why we have brought 120 commissioners together on the children and young people mental health commissioning development programme to learn from each other, and a range of specialists and academics.

We want commissioners to come away with the knowledge and confidence to lead the transformation of these services. Through a mix of regional masterclasses, local peer learning sessions, three national workshops and online resources and support the programme will include topics such as how to use data to develop evidence-based commissioning, how to involve children and young people in commissioning decisions, and resilience and leadership.

In creating the programme we have listened to what commissioners told us would help them to commission differently and better. Having an opportunity to learn from each other, hearing what their equivalents are commissioning in other areas of the country was a key theme. They wanted open and honest conversations around what has worked, as well as what maybe didn’t work out as expected, to ensure they can continue to learn from best practice and the experience of others. This is a refreshing approach and we have created sustainable, support and sharing networks as part of the programme so learnings can continue to be embedded into commissioning beyond the end of the development programme.

To get a wider, forward-thinking view on children and young people’s mental health we have joined with YoungMinds, Oxford Brooks University, University of Reading and CYP IAPT Learning Collaboratives to deliver the programme. These partners bring insight, thought-leadership, the latest models of care and the voice of young people to transform the way we think about commissioning services for children and young people with emotional, behavioural, psychological and mental health needs.

You can see more about the programme, and launch event by searching #CYPMHcommissioning on Twitter.

Claire Murdoch

Claire Murdoch is NHS England’s National Mental Health Director.

She has been a registered mental health nurse for 34 years, and joined NHS England in April 2016.

She is also Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. With a wealth of clinical and leadership experience she is leading delivery of the national mental health programme.