Hampshire mental health project makes prestigious national awards shortlist. @withoutstigma

An innovative project to help children and young people in Hampshire experiencing mental health issues attend appointments closer to home has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

Children and young people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related conditions, who need regular monitoring of their height, weight, blood pressure and pulse, can now have this done at a local pharmacy rather than having to attend a main clinic, which could be many miles from their home.

In addition to carrying out the physical measurements, staff at community pharmacies are also able to support families with any medication related queries, such as how to administer the medication, potential side effects and possible interactions with other medications.

The initiative has been shortlisted in the ‘Innovation Team’ category at the 2018 British Medical Journal (BMJ) Awards, which celebrate excellence and innovations in healthcare that improve outcomes for patients and communities across the country.

Called ‘Bringing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) closer to home’, the project was initiated by the New Forest team at Hampshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which is run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

It was launched following an increase in the clinic waiting list, delays to monitoring young people’s progress and an increasing number of missed appointments, with feedback from families that they often found it difficult to get to the clinics.

The one year pilot project in the New Forest ran at 15 pharmacies and was funded following a successful bid to the Health Foundation’s Innovating for Improvement programme in 2016.

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Subha Muthalagu, who led the project, said: “We asked parents why they were struggling to bring their children to their monitoring appointments and the overwhelming response was that it was inconvenient to get to a clinic during the working day. Distance was an issue, and they often had to miss work and take their child out of school, which isn’t always possible and is far from ideal for the family. Our clinics could not always be responsive to their needs and fit in all of the appointments due to limited resources.

“We realised that something needed to be done to improve access to appointments and improve the quality of the service we were giving to families. As there is no medical need for the checks to be done at one of our main clinics we looked at what other options there were. Working with colleagues at local community pharmacies we provided training to support them in carrying out the necessary physical monitoring, and families were asked if they’d like to choose a pharmacy and convenient time for their appointment.

“Overall it’s been a huge success, with more than 130 families taking part. We’ve seen a significant reduction in clinic waiting times and it’s freed up clinical time and resources for CAMHS staff to concentrate on young people who need specialist mental health support at their appointments rather than routine monitoring, which other healthcare colleagues are better placed to provide. The families are happy with the service and it is now embedded locally as part of our offer to families.

“We now hope to roll this initiative out across other areas of Hampshire and Sussex, to offer the same level of flexibility to families no matter where they live in the county.”

The winners will be announced at a black tie awards ceremony at the Park Plaza Westminster Hotel, London on Thursday 10 May.

You can read a full evaluation report into the project on the Health Foundation’s website.

Find out more about the work of Hampshire CAMHS at www.hampshirecamhs.nhs.uk.