Adam Sewell-Jones on how trusts facing challenges with respect to mental health services can learn from others who have faced similar issues 

Mental health is an area which is rightly getting more attention than it used to. Being in the spotlight means more scrutiny but it also provides the opportunity for improvements and innovation to get the attention they deserve.

NHS Improvement’s role is to shine a light on innovation so that best practice can be shared across the system.

Last year, NHSI committed to supporting the development of a national model to guide the continuous improvement of mental health services, drawing on the experience and skill that already exists within the sector.

Peer to peer learning can often be the most effective and more often than not trusts facing challenges can learn from others who have faced similar issues.

Innovative ideas

So NHSI worked with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear as our strategic partner and approached other trusts which had turned innovative ideas into reality, with impressive results.

Chief executives and staff from nine trusts worked collaboratively over the past 12 months to develop the national model for improving mental health services, which we published today.

The resource contains advice on how to act on feedback and learn from complaints and most importantly real accounts of how trusts turned things around to help inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Many trusts have found working with people who use services, carers and their families invaluable in maintaining the motivation and vocational drive of their staff

It provides advice on how to build sustainable improvement from managing resources, leadership, culture, to keeping services safe during transformational change to optimising digital innovation.

Trusts have been honest about the challenges they faced as well as how this impacted the people who use their services, their families and their carers.

They clearly explain what action they took and what the results were, including the feedback they received not only from the people who use their services and the friends and family but staff also.

One trust (Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust) managed to reduce bed costs by £3.5m after improving access to a busy 24/7 crisis line.

Out of area placements were reduced by another trust (Lancashire Care FT) by setting up a crisis house. The trust developed and runs the house in partnership with the third sector to draw on third sector expertise in managing social crisis on a non-medical model.

Many trusts have found working with people who use services, carers and their families invaluable in maintaining the motivation and vocational drive of their staff.

Staff in mental health trusts do their best for people who use services, their carers and families in highly complex and challenging circumstances.

Everyone understands that high professional standards are essential in these circumstances because the consequences of deviating from them are so serious.

However, the resource published today shows that improvement is a continuous journey and becomes even more important when pressure in the system grows.

We hope these examples give encouragement and practical support to other mental health service providers to help improve their services, which are used by some of the most vulnerable people the NHS looks after.