Earlier this year NHS England set up a new Mental Health Taskforce, chaired by Paul Farmer. It is developing a new five year national strategy for mental health, recognising the importance of improving access, better integration and treating people with hope, dignity and respect. Scotland’s mental health strategy also sets out a number of key commitments which focus on reducing variation in the availability of good quality mental health services.

Under the coalition Government there was an increased interest in mental health led by Norman Lamb. Only last week this interest has been reinforced by the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, appointing a new Minister for Mental Health, Luciana Berger.

The current focus on mental health is welcome as it has long been a neglected and underfunded area of the health service. The Health Foundation has funded a number of projects aimed at improving quality and service user experience in mental health services. We’ve worked with passionate and knowledgeable mental health teams who are looking to improve the way they provide services, making them more person-centred and more focused on recovery.

In particular these three projects show how using peer support, shared decision making and self management support can enhance service provision and improve lives for people with mental health problems.

1. Peer support can enhance recovery and reduce crisis admissions

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and the Institute of Mental Health led a pioneering project which improved outcomes and experience for service users. It focused on recovery and helped to prevent crisis admissions to hospital, contributing to a 14% reduction in inpatient stays and saving the trust around £260k.

The project involved employing a team of peer support workers, all with personal experience of mental health problems. The group were trained to use their experiences, coping strategies and community connections to support other people with mental health problems in a mutually beneficial relationship – with great results.

The team are now focused on disseminating learning further. The work has already contributed to the development of new national guidance, accredited training and occupational standards for peer support workers in mental health services.

Read more about ‘Improving mental health through peer support’, part of our Closing the Gap through Changing Relationships programme.

2. Shared decision-making improves therapeutic relationships with young people

A team from Camden Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the Anna Freud Centre experienced great results when they introduced shared decision-making as a way of involving young people more in their own treatment.

Clinicians found that using shared decision-making significantly changed the way they interacted with the people in their care, making relationships more open and transparent. Young people said they felt engaged and involved, more able to take responsibility for their actions, and more committed to following the care plans they’d been involved in developing.

The team found evidence of improved outcomes in individual cases and anecdotal evidence from nurses in an outpatient unit suggested that shared decision-making led to fewer incidences of aggressive behaviour.

Read more about Shared decision-making in child and adolescent mental health care, part of our Closing the Gap through Changing Relationships programme.

3.  Self-management increases confidence and reduces symptoms of depression

Two sites in London and Devon introduced self-management support for people with depression. This had a really positive impact on service users’ lives, increasing their confidence and ability to manage their mental health.

Results showed that people who took part in the programme had less contact with primary care services and reduced psychiatric symptoms. Data from one site also showed a reduction in occupied bed days – suggesting that people felt more able to self-manage their condition and avoid crisis situations.

The teams used our Co-creating Health model to embed self-management support within their organisations. This three-pronged approach provided an education programme for people with depression and training for health care professionals, while also changing how services were delivered.

Read more about Torbay Care Trust and Devon Partnership Trust’s work, and the project led by South West London and St Georges Mental Health NHS Trust and NHS Wandsworth as part of our Co-creating Health programme.

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