• Mental health vanguard to launch shared bed management and patient record systems
  • MERIT hopes the management system will cut out of area bed days from 9,000 to 4,500 by 2018-19
  • The system will allow managers and clinicians to view where there are free beds across four trusts

The country’s only mental health vanguard is preparing to launch the first bed management system across multiple trusts, to halve the number of patients being sent out of area.

The MERIT vanguard will launch the electronic bed management system in November, which is expected to reduce out of area placement bed days from 9,000 to 4,500 by 2018-19.

It is the first time managers at different mental health trusts will be able to monitor their neighbour’s bed capacity in real time.

The vanguard is made up of:

  • Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust;
  • Black Country Partnership FT;
  • Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership FT; and
  • Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust.

There are 796 inpatient beds across the trusts comprising adult acute units, older adult inpatient units, psychiatric intensive care units and crisis assessment facilities.

The system will allow bed managers and clinicians to see which adult and PICU mental health beds across the trusts are free, so patients can be placed locally instead of sent hundreds of miles for treatment.

The vanguard is also launching a £593,000 electronic shared health record. This will enable clinicians – with a patient’s permission – to call up their medical records with another trust to see what interaction they have had with mental health services across the area.

Shakeel Sabir, head of MERIT programme, said the new bed management system will be launched across all adult inpatient units except eating disorders.

He said: “It is creating a mechanism for the four trusts to work together in the electronic bed system so they can see the bed availability and usage across all the orgnaisations.

“Each organisation has their own systems and cannot access information from the other trusts. It’s a very urban area, people are moving around and the border is often between two streets, so people will come into contact with multiple trusts.

“We are looking to establish a system with interoperability so [each trust] can have access to that information.”

The vanguard’s financial template, seen by HSJ, estimates the whole vanguard will make in-year savings of £6m by 2020-21.

This is expected to come from:

  • a reduction in accident and emergency attendances;
  • reduced out of area bed days;
  • reduced duplication of activity;
  • cutting agency costs; and
  • cutting crisis care costs.

To launch the system, the trusts have signed a memorandum of understanding and shared operating procedures agreement. MERIT crisis care lead Professor George Tadros said this allows them to standardise practices such as admission, discharge, referral and transfer criteria.

Professor Tadros, who is also clinical director for the urgent care pathway at BSMH, added: “The problem… is we are transferring patients out of area at the worst time in their journey, when they are in mental health crisis; when they are feeling desperate, paranoid or confused, and expecting family members to go see them hundreds of miles away.

“We have developed an MOU to see how we can work together but, most importantly, we have developed a standard operating procedure.

“By the end of this process, I am hoping there will be a significant reduction in out of area admissions, but also a significant improvement in patient satisfaction and clinical practice.”