How NHS areas can get Mental Health improvements back on track

Published: 1st July 2020
The NHS Long Term Plan provided hope that improving Mental Health services was a national priority. But just as this plan was starting to be implemented, COVID-19 came along. Our Mental Health Lead looks at how NHS areas can get Mental Health improvements back on track.

I commented back in February that “Mental health has long been the Cinderella service of the NHS”. With the publishing of the NHS Long Term Plan, there was hope that improving Mental Health services was now a national priority. But just as this plan was starting to be implemented, COVID-19 came along and knocked everything off track.

From discussions with our NHS customers, we know that, like their colleagues in physical care, many services were able to transition to using phone or video conferencing following lockdown. But, whilst this often meant that clinicians could actually see more patients in a day compared to doing consultations face-to-face, the number of patients seeking treatment dropped dramatically and those already in treatment (or on waiting lists) saw a lot disruption to that treatment.

As a digital healthcare company, we champion the use of new technology to improve healthcare in the NHS, however, we know that for a large cohort of patients with mental health issues a shift to virtual consultations is just not going to work for a multitude of personal reasons. Yet, shifting back into pre-COVID-19 ways of working, especially as we now go into a period with even higher demand, is also not a viable option.

How can Consultant Connect help?

  • Support for GPs (and Social Workers): The GP is the hub of patient care. We therefore champion the use of immediate Advice and Guidance in Mental Health to support GPs. Our projects can be structured both locally (i.e. local GPs/Clinicians to local MH Trust) or nationally (local GPs receiving advice from out-area NHS specialists, such as the Medication Advice Line Provided by the Pharmacists at the National Centre for Psychiatric Medicines Information at SLaM).
    “Telephone Advice & Guidance gives GPs rapid access to experts. Clear, evidence-based information is provided immediately for most enquiries and primary care clinicians have the ability to speak to someone directly rather than to email or write for advice. When a patient’s referral to secondary care has been rejected, we can also give expert advice on the patient’s management.” Dr Anne Connolly, Principal Pharmacist For Medicines and Information, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). For Dr Connolly’s recent Patient Case Study, click here. 
  • Support for Mental Health Secondary Care clinicians: Whilst we had been working on supporting Mental Health clinicians with the physical health issues common in patients with severe mental illnesses (SMIs) for some time, COVID really moved these plans forward. We are now proud to be working with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust  (SLaM) and Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts in piloting a virtual physical health clinic for patients in their inpatient facilities. We hope this will become a model for other areas. To read more about this project – click here. 


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