Secondary Care

NHS-first mental health project signals better connected care for patients in crisis

Mental health patients presenting to hospitals in times of crisis will receive better informed and potentially life-saving care, due to a first-of-its-kind project in the NHS taking place in the West Midlands.

Based on InterSystems HealthShare, the project is being taken forward by an NHS vanguard group of four mental health trusts known as the Mental Health Alliance for Excellence, Resilience, Innovation and Training (MERIT). It will enable shared access for relevant professionals to specific but crucial information from the patient’s mental health record at time of crisis.

Robust local data sharing agreements, strict information governance measures, strong audit trails, and the deployment of HealthShare technology will allow secure access across the four trusts involved. Covering a population of 3.4 million people, the trusts include Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, and Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust.

The trusts will use InterSystems HealthShare to integrate real-time information from their different systems at the point of crisis. This means, for example, that if a patient from Birmingham presents in Wolverhampton, clinicians there will have an up-to-date understanding of the patient’s needs without the need to repeat questions at what may be a distressing time.

Currently, when patients present to a hospital outside their immediate area, mental health professionals cannot access any information from the patient’s mental health record – including any risks for that patient or details of their medication.

Under the new initiative, MERIT will be the first mental health trusts collaboration in England to allow authorised professionals to share access to this essential patient data when needed, providing controlled access to mental health diagnoses, treatment, risk assessment plans, names of professionals involved in care, and the patient’s crisis intervention plan.


Dr James Reed, a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our vision for this is to provide a common mental health record across the West Midlands. This would be an enormous step forward, but with a clear vision, clear leadership and involvement of people throughout partner organisations, this is possible. We’re starting with a clear clinical need, building trust together to share access to information and to start to remove gaps in mental health provision. But our work here in the West Midlands could also help to pave the way for new national standards in mental health.”

Expected to go live in late 2017, the project is part of an important programme of work in the MERIT vanguard to improve mental health care provision.