Exclusive insights from the latest mental health roundtable event hosted by RwHealth in partnership with Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust

Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust and NHS data analytics supplier RwHealth delved into the challenges facing the sector at their latest roundtable event this summer. The event saw sector leaders discuss systems and solutions that will help build a better experience for patients and staff alike.

Most importantly, it gave staff an opportunity to challenge one another to think differently about current challenges and how these solutions will impact those who rely on them.

Using data the right way

Data can drive decision-making at every level, from procurement to front-line staff. Together, attendees explored how trusts can ensure all actions are backed by their own data and how this can help identify unwarranted variation – both internally and between organisations.

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Conventional data presentation, however, can present major barriers to its use. For example, many do not respond to data presented in an excel spreadsheet; ensuring that data presentation is interactive and easy to consume will support people to utilise it effectively.

In the absence of easily accessible data evidence, it’s easy for weaknesses and failings to hide in plain sight. It is absolutely essential that everyday insights are gathered and displayed in ways that make them easy to refer to every day so that they can truly have a constant impact on trust performance.

Orlando Agrippa, CEO at RwHealth commented: “To prepare for the future, we need to gather, understand, and harness data to build strategies that support mental health patients and practitioners going forward.”

Redefining ‘discharge’

The roundtable discussion revealed that the word “discharge” perhaps carries more weight than we might expect. When we think of discharging a patient, we often see this as the end of our role in the patient’s care. The reality for the patient is simply a transition to the next stage in a journey that is far from over. Handovers should thus be seen as a transition rather than an endpoint, moving away from the old habit of considering different elements of the care continuum in isolation.

Every person across the health and social care system is collectively working toward the same goals, and only by realising this will we successfully address the occupancy issues at hand.

Ade Odunlade, COO at Derbyshire Healthcare, added: “Collaboratively, we can ensure that we are building solutions that serve our patient communities, instead of creating additional problems for those who need us most.”

Engaging and involving patients

Hosting roundtables that include patients as attendees could help us all build services that truly meet the needs of our target populations. This would also provide a great opportunity to educate the population about the services available to them and highlight that admission to the hospital may not always be the most helpful route.

Education regarding the most appropriate form of care is not only required for the public, it’s needed within the healthcare sector too. Referrals are too often made simply due to a lack of knowledge of alternative options. If other areas were better informed on how to support and efficiently signpost patients to appropriate services in a timely manner, reliance on urgent inpatient mental healthcare may be reduced.

A key part of reducing patient reliance on acute care is supporting people to take care of themselves in the home - and supporting patients for whom the home might not be the safest place.

Out of hours care

Out of Hours services can be quite disjointed, making it all too easy for patients to be left behind. These hours create additional challenges when trying to work with other elements of the care system; the rest of the system does not consistently work OOH, meaning that OOH discharges will be left in limbo until “normal” working hours – often at the detriment of patient wellbeing.

OOH shifts – which make up 70 per cent of the day – are often left to junior staff, despite the fact that it is usually the most complex cases that require OOH care. Enhancing OOH care and securing a more senior presence is essential in ensuring patients are achieving the best possible care, irrespective of the time of day.

Workforce strategy

These demanding hours are far from appealing to potential new talent. We must consider how to attract – and retain – staff with the expectation of working such unsociable hours.

Far too often we are pulled in too many directions to make efficient use of our time and resources. Enabling staff to focus on the core responsibilities of their roles is key to maximising the workforce the NHS currently has.

In this sector, we take patients’ lives in our hands each day, so our risk-aversion is hardly a surprise. However, it is not always a good thing as it can mean a reluctance to change for the better. We often mistrust new strategies and pathway changes, perhaps delaying the implementation of changes that could be hugely beneficial. Finding a balance of innovation and sensible caution is tricky, but essential.

About the RwHealth and Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust partnership

With a focus on improving flow and the entire patient experience, this partnership was founded on the premise of integrating data into the culture of managing and streamlining patient flow across the entire system.

RwHealth and Derbyshire have jointly worked to support clinical, operations and leadership teams at the trust, in order to see the optimised management of critical services and flow. To date, this has been achieved through the continuous use of data, analytics, innovation, clinical engagement, operational engagement and transformation support.

Find the full report here.