Breaking Down the Barriers

Working to improve and sustain mental and physical health awareness, education and training across the NHS workforce

Current situation:

  • Breaking Down the Barriers logoPeople in England who have had mental health problems are five times as likely to be admitted to hospital as an emergency as those who have not.
  • Around 75% of children and young people with mental health disorders are undiagnosed and untreated.
  • People affected by severe mental illness can die up to 20 years younger than everyone else because of poor physical health.
  • Poor mental health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, and the estimated impact on the economy is a total of £100 billion.

The NHS Five Year Forward View, published in October 2014 by NHS England, set out a positive vision for the future based around seven new models of care and actions the NHS should take to ensure an equal response to mental and physical health, that everyone receives high quality care and a drive towards ensuring patients with mental illness and physical health needs are addressed at the same time.

Addressing the knowledge gap

UCLPartners was commissioned by Health Education England in 2014 to conduct a needs assessment, which highlighted a clear, urgent need and desire from NHS professionals to increase mental and physical health awareness, knowledge and skills through training, in order to improve care across primary and secondary settings. There was a consensus that GPs and practices could play a much greater role and would embrace training materials to improve on current skills and knowledge.

The integration of mental and physical care is a priority for the NHS. To achieve this will require a more flexible and sustainable workforce, who are adequately equipped with appropriate and timely knowledge and skills to deliver the best possible care for patients across mental and physical health. Breaking Down the Barriers is supporting NHS organisations in meeting the national CQUIN targets by:

  • Reducing A&E admissions of people with serious mental illness from community and mental health settings
  • Improving the experience and outcomes of people with SMI’s who present to A&E
  • Increasing confidence, knowledge and skills of the NH mental health workforce in the assessment and management of physical health in patients with acute and long-term conditions
  • Increasing confidence and knowledge across GP practices and staff dealing with children and adolescents who present with mental health and learning disabilities needs.

What is Breaking Down the Barriers?

Breaking Down the Barriers (BDtB) is an innovative training programme, which builds knowledge, skills and confidence in the NHS workforce around physical and mental health needs. It aims to support the NHS workforce and multidisciplinary teams working in and across primary and secondary settings to enhance existing skills, increase knowledge for early recognition, awareness, assessment, management of care, timely referrals and signposting of physical and mental health needs

The programme was developed in collaboration between UCLPartners and NHS primary and secondary care organisations in north and east London.

It consists of a suite of 14 free bespoke mental and physical health training modules to be delivered by reciprocal and local training arrangements which will improve staff confidence, skills and knowledge, subsequently improving the quality of care and experience of patients.

A key aim of the Breaking Down the Barriers programme is to facilitate and encourage collaborative, reciprocal training exchange initiatives across settings in the NHS. This means the sharing of resources i.e. healthcare professional expertise, knowledge, skills, facilities, training provision and delivery across health care settings.

What are the key programme areas?

  • Mental health awareness in NHS acute emergency and urgent care settings
  • Physical health awareness in mental health settings, including the management of the acutely unwell and patients with long-term conditions
  • Child and adolescent mental health and learning disabilities awareness for GP practices
  • Child and adolescent learning disabilities awareness for GP practices
  • Serious incidents case-based awareness for primary and secondary healthcare settings, universities and affiliated institutions (nursing and medical training programmes).

Read more information on the modules and certified trainers here.

Who is the training aimed at?

Breaking Down the Barriers are downloadable training resources aimed at improving education and training across NHS primary and secondary health care, higher education institutions and social care settings.

How is Breaking Down the Barriers training delivered?

All training materials have been designed and developed as taught modules lasting between 1-2 hours. Modules are delivered through a mixture of presentations, practical exercises, videos tutorials, case studies, scenarios etc.

  • Flexible taught modules delivered in bite-sizes from 30 mins – 2 hours through a mixture of presentations, practical exercises, videos tutorials, case studies, scenarios, quizzes and discussion
  • Flexibility to pick and choose training modules as required
  • Training resources are tailorable and can be adapted and delivered to targeted audiences
  • Training resources require minimum administrative work and include a mixture of flyers, facilitators’ guides, content, evaluation forms and certificates

All materials are available as:

How successful is Breaking Down the Barriers?

UCLPartners has successfully led and facilitated a reciprocal and collaborative training delivery approach across the north, central and east London region. Overall evaluation feedback from the training roll-out has demonstrated a significant shift in increased confidence, knowledge and practical skills and reflected the need for more and regular training to maintain consistency and reduce further gaps in training.


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How would Breaking Down the Barriers training resources benefit my organisation?

  • Materials are free, tailorable, adaptable, flexible, and customisable modular courses hereby saving on or reducing training costs of utilising external providers
  • Training can be delivered in bite-sizes to alleviate issues around clinical time constraints
  • Modular training resources come as whole packages (flyers, sign-in forms, facilitators’ guides, content, evaluation forms, attendance and delivery certificates etc thus requiring minimal administrative work)
  • Mental and physical health awareness training is delivered through reciprocal and collaborative local arrangements
  • Training is delivered on trusts premises and is tailored to professional ley areas. level) team size, required pace and frequency and near where nurses can return to clinical areas saving trusts on travel costs and time.

How does my organisation access Breaking Down the Barriers training materials and resources?

Breaking Down the Barriers can now be accessed via e-learning for Healthcare, where all mental and physical health training packages are readily available for download. Please visit:

Contact information

For more information on the programme, please contact, Project Support Officer. Alternatively call 020 3108 2319 or follow us on Twitter @UCLPartners #UCLPartnersBreakingBarriers.

UCLPartners continues to work collaboratively with all NHS organisations and partners to ensure we achieve a joined-up and sustainable approach to improving mental and physical health awareness education for the workforce