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Partner in Focus - Devon Partnership NHS Trust

Posted on March 29th 2018

As a partnership of NHS Trusts across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, plus the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, we aim to work with healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public to identify areas of research that reflect the real needs and concerns of the health service in the South West.

Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT) provide a wide range of NHS services to people with mental health and learning disability needs in Devon, the wider South West region, and nationally. PenCLAHRC have collaborated with the Trust on a number of projects with the aim to advance the delivery of high quality services.

Commenting on the ongoing collaboration between PenCLAHRC and Devon Partnership Trust, David Somerfield, Chief Operating Officer at DPT says:

“We value the expertise and approach that PenCLAHRC has brought to these projects. They have helped us to have a better understanding of the impact system changes can have on improving service delivery, as well as helping us build accuracy and reliability into the development of our service models.”

Below is a selection of some of the work we've carried out with Devon Partnership Trust.


Operational Research and Devon Partnership Trust

Over the years DPT has worked extensively with PenCHORD, our operational research team.  Many of these projects have resulted in the successful implementation of improved clinical pathways models, which have helped to cultivate positive change.


Scheduling Mental health Assessments in Devon


DPT wanted to change the way patients were booked into specialist assessment centres across Devon by introducing a new ‘Choose and Book’ system, allowing patients to select the preferred location of their appointment. The Trust teamed up with PenCHORD to help validate and improve the proposed new system before it was officially rolled out.

The team were able to create a detailed computer simulation of the referral and assessment pathways. By creating this model, PenCHORD could assess the likely demand at each centre, predict the number of appointment slots needed and determine the best location for each site. Their analysis showed that a type of queue-sharing model, where patients can choose to attend one from several of their closest centres, could reduce waiting times significantly. After the modelling simulation was complete, the Trust was able to confidently implement the new system to great effect. Not only did the average wait time for an appointment fall from 22 days to 14, but the distance a patient had to travel for an appointment was also reduced.

Read more on the project page.


Modelling of Memory Clinics

A team at the University of Exeter Medical School have developed a clinical decision support system called DECODE to help screen patients who may have dementia and assess who requires a referral to a memory clinic. DECODE has the potential to reduce waiting lists, reduce the cost per diagnosis, and prevent unnecessary distress in cognitively healthy patients who can be reassured at a much earlier stage. 

PenCHORD worked with DPT in order to model the anticipated impact DECODE would have on patient waiting times for assessment across three memory clinics in Devon. The simulations demonstrated that DECODE would reduce waiting times at the clinics to zero, and findings have been used to inform the DPT of the expected impact of implementing DECODE across their memory clinics.

Further work is being undertaken to understand how best to administer DECODE and an implementation study is being planned. Find out more on the project page.


Supporting the use of operational research within health service development

The Health Service Modelling Associates (HSMA) Programme is a scheme run by PenCHORD, which aims to support the increased use of operational research within NHS organisations in the South West.

DPT Operational Manager and Programme Lead, Karl Vile, was one of the 2016 cohort on the HSMA programme.

Karl’s HSMA project was to identify and reduce bottlenecks in the Mental Health Urgent Care Pathway to maximise the number of patients the Trust can treat. The project scope was then expanded to model how the urgent care system would need to change to reduce pressure in the system and avoid out of area placements. You can read more about the project here.


Out of hours telephony service for mental health assessment

DPT is currently working towards the creation of a single point of access telephony system, the first stage of which will look to implement an out of hours telephone support service to people in crisis. PenCHORD are working to support the first pilot stage of this new system by modelling it to ensure it can support the expected increases in demand over time.

A set of scenarios have been created to assess the impact of increased demand on system function. These scenarios will test what resourcing is required to maintain the desired performance levels as demand increases.

Read more on the project page.


The Children and Adolescents with ADHD in Transition between Children’s services and adult Services project (CATCh-uS)

The CATCh-uS project focuses on what happens to young people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when they are too old to stay with children’s services. It aims to establish how many young people with ADHD are in need of services as adults, and to investigate young people’s, parents’ and practitioners’ views about the transition process. It will also map all adult ADHD services that are currently available around the country. The study was developed with the help of parents of a child with ADHD from the Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit (PenCRU) Family Faculty and Devon Partnership Trust.

You can read more about this project by visiting the CATCh-uS project page and join the conversation on Twitter using #catchusADHD.


These projects provide an example of how PenCLAHRC works across the South West health service. We aim to continue fostering successful partnerships with all our stakeholders to develop new, exciting, and innovative initiatives that will further improve patient services across the region.

Get in touch if you would like to speak to us about how we can work with you to address health service issues or uncertainties in your organisation.