Combined Healthcare Revolutionises Young People’s Access to Mental Health Services with Digital Platform

North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust is delighted to launch a new service to enhance access to mental health support and services for children, young people and the adults in their lives.

Together with DXC Technology, the Trust has created the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) Digital Portal as the blueprint to dramatically reduce mental health referral times, allow young people to self-refer, and provide the right assistance through digital technology.  

The CAMHS Digital Portal is now specifically supporting young people as they cope with isolation and anxiety whilst schools are closed due to COVID-19, providing answers to some common questions concerning living with the limitations imposed by the virus and giving them access to mental health professionals.

Julia Ford, Combined Healthcare’s CAMHS in schools lead, said: “This is about getting children to the right professional or right information first time, and much faster. At present, seven in 10 referrals to CAMHS are subsequently signposted to external organisations to appropriately meet individual needs, and some young people may need to wait some time for these services.

“We are redesigning and connecting services collaboratively with partners to remove lengthy processes traditionally associated with referrals, using technology so we can intelligently refer and triage patients to the most appropriate service.”

The Trust’s Director of Partnerships, Strategy & Digital, Chris Bird, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce the launch of the CAMHS Digital Portal. This is a significant step forward for the Trust and brings together a wealth of information, advice & guidance for mental health issues impacting on children & young people as well those involved in their lives; parents/carers/guardians, teachers and other professionals.

“Topics covered include anxiety, exam-related stress, bullying & cyber-bullying, body image worries and a range of other concerns. It also enables children & young people, or someone on their behalf, to make a referral direct to our CAMHS service without the need for a GP appointment.

“The Trust will increasingly offer some of its services through online platforms to complement our ability to provide all services in a way that reflect the changing expectations of society and our service users. The CAMHS Digital Portal is the first step on an exciting and ambitious digital transformation for the Trust.”

The project analysed real-life CAMHS interactions and has involved extensive collaboration with schools, young people, families, and mental health professionals. At the core of the portal is a ‘recommendation engine’, which utilises rules developed by clinicians, analyses key information provided the users and provides alerts to clinicians via their electronic patient record. It then recommends the most appropriate service for that child, ensuring mental health professionals delivering care have a complete picture of the patient.

Samantha Mortimer, Associate Director for North Staffordshire Community Directorate at Combined Healthcare, said: “The inclusion of the views obtained by local children, young people and education partners have been pivotal to ensure that Combined Healthcare Trust, alongside DXC, developed a portal designed to  transform  the access to CAMHS services.”

David Hewitt, Chief Information Officer at Combined Healthcare, said: “No child should have to wait for mental health care provision, and this new approach is empowering patients to call on that help when they need it through technology which is intuitive for them.

“Whether it’s a professional at the Trust or a specialist in the third sector, we now have the tools to get young people to the person who is best placed to help them faster than ever before. And when children arrive, professionals are now much better equipped with detailed information from the child and the people who know them best, so that the first appointment can be about treatment rather than information gathering. This is enormously powerful.” 

Colin Henderson, DXC’s Director of Healthcare and Life Sciences for the UK, Ireland, Israel, Middle East and Africa (UKIIMEA), said: “North Staffordshire is leading the way with an important initiative that will make a real difference for the lives of young people – in a project that is applicable nationally and across public sector. We are dedicated to doing everything we can to spread this innovation in North Staffordshire as far as possible.”