NHS England backs digital plans for mental healthcare

Seven exemplar projects to receive £35 million in effort to develop new online service models

NHS England is to back a series of projects aimed at using digital technology to support mental healthcare, with £35 million in funding to be matched by the seven trusts running the pilots.

Working under the title Global Digital Exemplars, they are contributing to the campaign to make the NHS paperless and involve developing remote, mobile and assistive technologies to help patients manage their own conditions.

Among those flagged up by NHS England are the plan by Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust to replace a series of patient record systems with one across the organisation. It will be accompanied by a strengthening of the WiFi infrastructure across its estate, along with giving staff mobile access to the system and developing apps for patients and carers.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is looking to deliver digital patient services including online consultations, and enabling patients to see their records, complete assessments and provide feedback online. It said the offering will be developed to complement face-to-face services.

Online therapies

Another project involves Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust working with the University of Oxford on developing an online platform for people with a range of conditions – including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder – to receive therapies through a computer or mobile phone.

The other trusts to receive support are Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham and Solilhull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS England indicated that it has chosen the organisations based on high digital maturity self-assessment scores, involvement in relevant initiatives and representation of a range of different solutions.

Tim KendallProfessor Tim Kendall (pictured), national clinical director for mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “Many mental health services across the country are already using technology in new and innovative ways to help provide the support people need and reduce pressure on services, including A&E departments.

“Initiatives range from virtual appointments for people who feel more comfortable doing that than meeting face to face; or providing street triage teams to secure access to essential patient information via a tablet when they are called to support someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

“This investment will help frontline staff and service users identify those opportunities for new service models enabled by digital technology that make a clear difference to people's lives.”

NHS England said that, alongside the exemplars for mental health, it will provide support for four acute exemplars, to be run by Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust; Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust with Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Image from NHS England, Open Government Licence v3.0