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Operational Research to help improve patients’ experience of mental health services in the South West

Posted on September 22nd 2020

Computer modelling is helping to develop a tool that supports decision-making for patients and clinicians when accessing Mental Health Services. The tool, developed by PenARC's Operational Research team PenCHORD, sets out to provide a clear picture of a patient’s service use history to help identify the most effective next steps in a patient’s treatment plan.

Experiencing mental health issues can lead patients to access a range of services by a variety of routes. This can mean that patients don't always receive the most effective treatment at the most appropriate time and result in increased costs for hospital Trusts. Traditionally, data that reflects the way that users access and use services has been presented to clinicians in a table, a method which doesn’t always provide an easily accessible impression, especially for patients with a complex care pathway.

In 2018, PenCHORD’s Dr Sean Manzi began a project, now linked to a prestigious research fellowship with The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute, to understand how patients used high intensity mental health services and how they moved around the South West region when accessing them. PenCHORD researcher Kerry Pearn has worked with Dr Manzi to develop an idea that uses computer code to automatically sift service use data to produce an individual’s record in a visually representative chart. The charts have drawn positive feedback from clinicians, nurses and other staff at Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT), who are working with the research team to identify how the tool can be put to work most effectively.

Simon Wellesley-Miller, Information Manager at DPT and an alumni of PenCHORD’s Health Services Modelling Associates Programme, is in the process of developing the existing code to facilitate its integration into the Trust’s system. He said: “This work has allowed me to visualise a patient’s complex journey through our services and systems, highlighting a build-up of activity prior to crisis. Using this methodology more proactively may assist in diverting away from high level services.”

Kerry Pearn said: "I am delighted that DPT share our enthusiasm for the potential benefit that this tool can bring to their service. It's fantastic that Simon Wellesley-Miller, an alumni of PenCHORD’s Health Services Modelling Associates Programme (HSMA), with his vast experience on informatics systems within the NHS is working to take this forward.”

It is hoped that the tool, which is still under development, will be shared widely and adopted by other NHS Trusts and service providers across the South West. Plans are in place to use it to evaluate the impact of a pilot study running in Devon as part of a collaboration between DPT, the Academic Health Science Network South West, and Devon Police. Serenity Integrated Mentoring is a mentoring programme that aims to improve outcomes for offenders with mental health issues. The scheme provides officers with specialist mental health training to help offenders interrupt negative cycles by identifying and changing behaviours and move towards more consistent and healthy coping strategies. The scheme has been set up in response to the recognition that a significant level of demand on mental health services is attributable to a small number of patients who struggle to manage highly complex behavioural disorders and who, as a result, place intensive operational demands on police, ambulance, A&E departments and mental health teams.

For updates on this story follow @Peninsula_ARC on Twitter and keep an eye on the PenARC website.

View the model here







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