News, Secondary Care

Mental health patients set to benefit from pioneering new digital services

NHS England has announced new funding for seven mental health trusts to enable these organisations to pioneer world-class, digital services to improve care for patients experiencing mental health issues.

This will include, for the first time, all key professionals involved in a patient’s care having access to real-time records – from triage and initial assessment, through to admissions or referrals, as well as transfer between services and follow up care.

The trusts will also develop remote, mobile and assistive technologies to empower patients to manage their conditions and enable family and carers to provide the best possible support.

The trusts will have up to £70m to invest in digital services – consisting £35m with additional match funding from themselves of £35m – in order to become ‘Global Digital Exemplars for Mental Health’ helping the organisations become world-leading in the use of IT, providing knowledge and expertise to the wider NHS in order to reduce time and costs for others.

This is all part of the NHS’ plan to harness technology to improve services and become more efficient.

Included in the plans put forward by the seven Mental Health Trusts:

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust is developing an app, with Stanford University, to anticipate and respond to serious self-harm and suicide risks. A prototype has been developed and researchers are preparing a feasibility study to explore the usability of the technology and how the digital platform performs against treatment as usual.

Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust has moved from multiple patient record systems to one system across the organisation. Mobile access to the patient record system will be rolled out to enable staff in the community to access and update a patient’s records. They will also be improving their overall digital infrastructure, including improving wifi access across its estate, and will be developing mobile apps to improve services for patients and carers.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is looking to deliver digital patient services including online consultations and enabling patients to access their records, complete assessments and provide feedback on-line.  The Trust’s digital offering will complement traditional face to face services.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust will be working in partnership with the University of Oxford to develop an online platform for people experiencing a range of conditions (including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety) to receive tried-and-tested psychological therapies on their computer or mobile phone.

Professor Keith McNeil, NHS Chief Clinical Information Officer, said: “As clinicians, we must embrace technology to help us deliver the best care to our service users, just as it helps us in so many other areas of our lives. Digital technology has the potential to transform people’s experience of mental health services and challenge the unacceptable boundaries between physical and mental health.

“I am excited by this investment across a wide range of services and technologies and the opportunity it presents to provide both improved experience and outcomes for service users across the country.”

Professor Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director for Mental Health at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “Many mental health services across the country are already using technology in new and innovative ways to help provide the support people need and reduce pressure on services, including A&E departments.

“Initiatives range from virtual appointments for people who feel more comfortable doing that than meeting face to face; or providing street triage teams to secure access to essential patient information via a tablet when they are called to support someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

“This investment will help frontline staff and service users identify those opportunities for new service models enabled by digital technology that make a clear difference to peoples’ lives.”

Nicola Blackwood, Minister for Public Health and Innovation, said: “In the age of the smartphone, excellent use of information and technology is fundamental to the transformation of the health and care system.

“The Global Digital Exemplars will be truly world class in supporting high quality care with digital technology, providing a blueprint for excellence, not only to the NHS, but across the world.

“I’m particularly pleased we have secured funding for seven mental health exemplars, who will be leading the way in providing high quality support and pushing the boundaries of mental health care.”

The successful organisations are:

  • Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
  • Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

Alongside the seven mental health Global Digital Exemplars, a further 4 acute Global Digital Exemplars have been confirmed by NHS England:

  • Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
  • Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust with Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust
  • Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust