NHS unveils mental health digital exemplars

The NHS has revealed seven Trusts to lead the way in pioneering digital technologies for mental health care.  

Known as ‘exemplars’, the Trusts will be leading lights in digital best practice in the mental health setting, including creating innovative apps and online access to real-time patient records.

Any new apps created will allow patients to manage their conditions remotely whilst providing loved ones and caregivers information about their progress.

Included in the real-time patient record portal will be features from every stage of a patient’s journey, from triage and initial assessment through to admissions and referrals. Information about transferring between care services and follow-up care will also be included.

Each Trust will have £70 million – £35  million of which will be provided by the Trusts themselves – to achieve their objectives.

Some of the Trusts have their own specific digital projects, including:

  • Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, which will develop an app in partnership with Stanford University to anticipate and respond to serious self-harm and suicide risks
  • Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, which will work on creating mobile access to its existing singular patient record system along with developing apps for patients and carers
  • Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which is looking to create a complete online patient service portal allowing for online consultations, health record access and assessments
  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which is working with the University of Oxford to develop a website for those affected by mental health issues to access clinically proven therapies via their computer or mobile phone

The other three Trusts are Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Tim Kendall

Tim Kendall

“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,” said Professor Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director for Mental Health at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

“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 peoples’ lives.”

The move is the latest stage of the NHS’ ongoing digitisation process which began picking up steam in September last year with the revealing of 12 digital exemplars.

It follows the gradual evolution of the NHS Choices website into a single source for UK patients. According to Director of Digital Transformation at NHS Digital, Beverley Bryant, the final product will allow patients to access a complete ‘personal health record’, book GP appointments and a library of NHS-approved apps.

In addition to the seven new mental health digital exemplars, a further four acute Trusts have been selected as global digital exemplars. These are 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.

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