A snapshot of UK mental health services
Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK, says NHS England’s 2016 Mental Health Five Year Forward View (1), whilst the cost to the economy is estimated at £105 billion a year – the total cost of running the NHS.
By 2030, MH problems (particularly depression) will be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity throughout the globe (2).
Over three years later from the publication, much progress has been made with improvements to public attitudes towards mental illnesses, and the NHS Long Term Plan renewing a ‘commitment to improve and widen access to care for children and adults needing mental health support’.
But MH services still face incredible challenges. The workforce is facing a severe shortage crisis with the number of registered mental health nurses down 11% between 2009-11 and fewer newly qualified psychiatrists working within the NHS (3). Whilst funding has a budget, record spend for 2018/19, the likelihood is that this will be heavily reduced, with just 10% of Teresa May’s £20bn mental health investment expected to be received by MH services (4).
Digitising MH services
The recent NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan announced that all MH providers will be ‘fully digitised and integrated with other parts of the health and care system by 2024’. To support this core level of digitisation, a CCIO or CIO on the board of all NHS organisations (5).
In terms of money, MH services have always been the poorer cousin to the acute sector, and that trend is reflected across investments in digitisation. Encouragingly, a recent government paper reviewing the state of digital technology across MH points out that the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ proposes to significantly increase mental health investment and envisages data and technology as central to transforming services’ (6).
Yet despite the Mental Health Digital Exemplar programme, which sees seven digitally advanced trusts share £5m funding to accelerate their digital maturity and then share their knowledge and experience through the NHS, there have been calls for more dedicated funding to support digital innovation in the sector.
The programme later appointed eight ‘Fast Follower’ trusts to partner with exemplars to accelerate their digital maturity. This means that just 26% of MH providers are part of the programme leaving three quarters of the market reliant on their own resources to continue their digital strategies.
All 57 MH trusts have an EMR system but are often based on older legacy IT which hampers usability and interoperability. A review into digitising MH services says that over the next 2-5 years progress around electronic health records will be important for capturing information more efficiently, sharing data with other clinicians, and providing EHR access for patients.
Climbing the digital maturity ladder
Basic data sharing remains a fundamental ambition for most MH providers. Many MH services are focused on becoming ‘paper-free at the point of care’ with the Mental Health Five Year Forward View calling for providers to be able to ‘work securely to share patient data on electronic health records’.
Improving clinician access to vital acute, community and GP patient information from electronic health records is the first step on the roadmap. Next steps typically include transfers of care, decision support, medicines management and optimisation, and remote care. Interoperability is now, more than ever, integral to supporting MH services in meeting these ambitions.
(2) WHO. (2011). Global burden of mental disorders and the need for a comprehensive, coordinated response from health and social sectors at the country level: Report by the Secretariat. Retrieved from apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/ pdf_files/EB130/B130_9-en.pdf & https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/areas-of-work/mental-health/
Learn how Enovacom helps mental health digital transformation through interoperability
In this paper, come learn about the challenges faced by MH providers in their daily lives and get views and examples from a Global Digital Exemplar trust: Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.