How NHS areas can support Mental Health improvements during COVID and winter pressures

Published: 9th October 2020
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS Long Term Plan provided hope that improving Mental Health services were a national priority. However, the pandemic has slowed the implementation of the improvements. As we go into winter with the additional pressure of a second wave, our Mental Health Lead discusses how NHS areas can still push Mental Health improvements forward.
Supporting Mental Health patients during a Pandemic - Consultant Connect

With the publishing of the NHS Long Term Plan earlier this year, there was expectations that improving Mental Health services was a national priority. However, as this plan started to be implemented, the COVID-19 pandemic knocked everything out of the way, including Mental Health improvements.

Throughout the first national lockdown we understand, from discussions with our NHS customers, that many healthcare services were able to transition to virtual Mental Health appointments, using phone or video conferencing.

Whilst this meant that clinicians could fit more patient appointments into their day, compared to doing consultations face-to-face, the number of patients seeking treatment dropped dramatically. Additionally, those already in treatment (and/or on waiting lists) saw a lot of disruption to that treatment.

How are Consultant Connect helping NHS areas?

Below are some examples of how we are helping areas address Mental Health care. Some approaches can be rolled out in as little as 72 hours, meaning they will make an impact this winter.

1. Support for GPs, Social and Community Workers.

We endorse the use of rapid Advice & Guidance to provide better access to Mental Health advice for GPs and other clinicians. Our projects can be structured both locally, connecting local clinicians to a local Mental Health Trust or nationally, connecting local clinicians to out-of-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.

2. Support for Mental Health Secondary Care Clinicians.

In June, we launched a project in collaboration with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts. This project is providing a virtual physical health clinic for patients in their inpatient facilities.

This project has achieved a referral avoidance rate of 65% in just 3 months since launch.

To read more about this project and its successclick here.


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