Ahead of World Mental Health Day, a new project that uses connected technologies has been developed by the NHS to help mental health patients receive the best possible care.
A group of four NHS mental health Trusts have created the Mental Health Alliance for Excellence, Resilience, Innovation and Training (MERIT), to help healthcare professionals share access to crucial information from the patient’s mental health record. The project aims to give mental health patients presenting to hospitals in times of crisis better informed and potentially life-saving care.
The project, taking place in the West Midlands, will use technology from InterSystems that enables the four Trusts to share data. The four Trusts cover a population of 3.4 million people and include Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust and Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust.
The Trusts have agreed on which information should be shared. The four organisations will use InterSystems HealthShare to integrate real-time information from their different systems at the point of crisis. This means that clinicians will have an up-to-date understanding of the patient’s needs even if they aren’t from that healthcare institute.
Currently, when patients go to a hospital outside of their area, mental health professionals cannot access any information from the patient’s mental health record. This includes any risks for that patient or details of their medication.
MERIT is the first mental health Trusts collaboration in England to allow authorised professionals to share access to essential patient data when needed. It gives clinicians controlled access to mental health diagnoses, treatment, risk assessment plans, names of professionals involved in care, and the patient’s crisis intervention plan.
The project is expected to go live later this year and complements a joint bed management policy across the Trusts so that patients can be treated locally, rather than being sent to other parts of the country. A separate project will also give patients and professionals access to online information about the best places for crisis care. NHS staff across the West Midlands will also take part in training to ensure patients receive the same level of expertise.
Professor George Tadros, clinical director for Urgent Care at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and lead for MERIT’s crisis care work stream, said: “Access to the right information can mean the ability to make potentially life-saving decisions for patients in crisis. We are working to revolutionise how we care for mental health patients in crisis and to end a situation where they might show up to a hospital where professionals know nothing about them. If we know the patient’s care plan, we will be able to deliver a far better service.
“Importantly, this will not mean creating a big new database, and it is not about sharing sensitive information without patient consent. But it is about being able to connect our individual systems in the West Midlands meaning that the right professionals can understand how to deliver the safest and most effective care possible to patients in urgent care situations, regardless of the hospital they visit. This could become a new model for the entire NHS.”
An audit of who has accessed patient data, at what time, and for what purpose, as well as strict policies will help ensure patient privacy is safeguarded, MERIT state.
Commenting on the future vision for the project, Dr James Reed, a consultant forensic psychiatrist and chief clinical information officer at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our vision for this is to provide a common mental health record across the West Midlands. This would be an enormous step forward, but with a clear vision, clear leadership and involvement of people throughout partner organisations, this is possible. We’re starting with a clear clinical need, building trust together to share access to information and to start to remove gaps in mental health provision. But our work here in the West Midlands could also help to pave the way for new national standards in mental health.”
“Projects often claim to be pioneering, but this is a powerful example of an NHS first in improving care for mental health patients,” said Mark Palmer, Country Manager, InterSystems UK & Ireland. “Whilst technology can help to connect care, it is our customers and their patients that are the driving force, making sure it responds to real clinical need. We eagerly look forward to the go-live of this important work, and the benefits it could have for the wider NHS.”