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Challenges and solutions in NHS mental health services

24 November 2020
Mental health innovation was the theme of two recent UCLPartners online events that brought together the NHS, innovators and AHSNs to articulate the needs of mental health services and discuss how technology can provide solutions.

Run by UCLPartners’ Commercial & Innovation team, the events on 9th and 16th November were introduced by leading figures in the field: Paul Farmer, CEO of MIND; Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director for Mental Health, NHS England; and Peter Fonagy, Programme Director for Mental Health and Behaviour Change at UCLPartners.

In these introductory sessions, speakers presented trends in mental health attitudes, funding and the prevalence of mental health problems. Taken together these trends indicate a need and possibility to harness a more positive public outlook on mental health, the increase in dedicated  NHS funding and technological developments to address the widening treatment gap.

Speakers discussed the move to a needs-based model of mental health care, along with the need for scaling-up the training of a new workforce. Both of these can be enabled by digital and technological solutions, and are supported by the NHS Long Term Health Plan which is currently piloting innovative approaches in mental health with the aim of rolling them out across the NHS.

Community care

Enabling more efficient and patient-centric care and data was a strong theme in the first event on community care, which showcased several examples of the successful use of digital technology in NHS Trusts. This included a partnership between East London NHS Foundation Trust and SilverCloud Health to adapt their digital platform for use with people with complex needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another successful commercial partnership in community care was exemplified by the NHS Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust’s use of Otsuka Healthcare Solutions’ MaST (Management and Supervision Tool) that applies a risk of crisis algorithm to large datasets to enable safer, quicker decisions. MaST is supported by the NHS Innovation Accelerator.

NHS mental health care services are also advancing their own home-grown solutions. Clinicians and researchers from East London NHS Foundation Trust and Queen Mary University of London have developed the DIALOG + app, which uses a solution focussed therapy approach integrated with patient e-records to combine objectives in one seamless process. Another example of local innovation was presented by the North East London NHS Foundation Trust who have adopted a suite of technology enabled solutions to meet some of the ongoing challenges faced by their home treatment teams.

Acute and crisis care

With acute and crisis care in mental health services as the topic for the second event, early intervention was a strong theme and the need for a holistic approach to fully integrate technology within healthcare systems and the wider environment.

UCLPartners are working with Oxehealth to promote adoption of their vision-based monitoring and management system in acute mental health wards across the region and Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust outlined their recent implementation of Oxehealth at the event. This demonstrated how the technology not only increases patient safety but, by enabling less intrusive interventions, improves therapeutic engagement and patient experience.

Another common theme of the events was the use of innovation to enable better sharing of data thereby lessening the need for patients to continually re-tell their story. Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust have put in place their 111 Mental Health Crisis Response which integrates call management with their clinical records system to capture data in real time and allow information to move with the patient through the pathway.

S12 Solutions has been adopted by Wandsworth Borough Council to support approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) and doctors to undertake Mental Health Act assessments and is also supported by NHS Innovation Accelerator. The technology not only identifies nearby doctors who are available to conduct an assessment but allows electronic forms to be shared with other organisations.

Optimising technology for adoption and system interoperability were also topics of sessions at the events with panellists from NHS England, MIND, NHSX, Mindwave and Microsoft discussing ways to overcome challenges of digital exclusivity, system integration and how to represent and acknowledge the complexity of mental health needs in technological solutions.

Continuing the conversation

UCLPartners will be continuing this conversation around innovation in mental health as our programme for mental health and behaviour change develops further and we would like to hear from innovators and NHS Trusts interested in working in this area.

The Commercial & Innovation team provide advice, signposting and support to help innovators and businesses work with the NHS. They also work closely with our NHS partners to identify their priorities and articulate these to industry provide support.

Please contact if you would like to know more.