How we’re transforming community mental health care

Deputy CEO Darren Summers

Deputy CEO Darren Summers outlines our progress and plans for transforming community mental health care by 2024. 

‘We’re five months into this 36-month transformation programme. Our focus so far has been on putting strong foundations and structures in place to deliver these changes: recruiting to the 200 full-time positions needed this year to expand services; commissioning new support services from community organisations; making sure the changes are safe for everyone under our care, now and into the future; and testing new approaches to prevention and earlier treatment. 

We’ve hired 90 per cent of the staff we need this year. We’ve recruited new community outreach specialists, occupational therapists, peer coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and others. There are many innovative roles. 

In Barnet, for example, Mushtag our new in-reach worker makes sure people on our wards have the support they’ll need when they’re discharged. She can help with things like accommodation, applying for benefits and booking GP appointments. In Camden, senior population health nurses like Ophelia are identifying people who may need help to look after their physical health and offering check-ups, tests and vaccines. In Enfield and Haringey, mental health practitioners like Angiolina work alongside GPs and link anyone who needs support into the local team. Islington’s community pharmacist David advises colleagues and service users on medication doses and side-effects. 

We can’t transform community mental health care on our own. We’re working with colleagues in local government to identify how best to integrate mental health social workers into neighbourhood teams. Each borough is at a different stage in this journey. We want to make the system work much better for people. In Islington, for example, the team plans to replace the five forms required by various organisations with a single application.

We’ve commissioned 12 not-for-profit organisations to deliver new mental health support services in Barnet, Enfield, Haringey and Islington. Like our partners in Camden, they’ll employ people to work alongside our existing in the new neighbourhood teams. They include peer coaches, community connecters and support officers. The first of these new workers started in Barnet last week. The rest are expected in December. 

It’s vital these changes are safe for everyone under our care. In Barnet, Enfield and Haringey, for example, everyone under the care of a mental health team will have an assigned key worker by the end of November – six months ahead of schedule to make sure everyone transitions to the new teams and is accounted for. 

We’re rolling out the first of the neighbourhood teams this year. They’ll cover about one third of borough and local GP practices. In December, we’ll apply for funding to roll out more teams and expand coverage across each borough. By 2024, the new teams will be fully operational. 

Once the new neighbourhood teams find their feet, they’ll reach out to communities to further develop services beyond the core services. These new services will be tailored to meet the unique needs of communities. With your help to shape these services, we expect to see big improvements in people’s mental health within a few years.’ 

Darren was speaking at our Community Mental Health Summit on 10 November 2021. 

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