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Guest blog: Delay is not ok when someone is suffering

Written by: Amy Manning - 11th August 2020

Amy Manning, Founder and Managing Director of S12 Solutions, and also an NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow, writes about how she created the company to provide a 21st Century digital solution for a ‘creaking’ mental health system. The platform is now used across over 60 per cent of England.

To detain someone is a deeply serious matter. You are taking away their liberty, intervening in their human rights. A Mental Health Act Assessment requires an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP), and – most often – two doctors. One who is a Section 12 approved doctor, with the specific expertise to take part in the assessment, and one who is known to the person being assessed.

S12 Solutions is a platform which allows a Mental Health Act Assessment to be arranged swiftly and efficiently. To detain someone under the Mental Health Act is a last resort – the end of a long road. A Mental Health Act Assessment can be a crisis intervention, but the process that I saw as a practising social worker was terribly slow and paper based.

I started S12 Solutions because, as a social worker, I was deeply frustrated by the out-dated system. To arrange an assessment, I would spend hours phoning around. Delays often increased distress for those being assessed or those supporting them. Delays to assessment also carry serious implications for the emergency services. Delay is not ok when someone is suffering.

It appeared that nothing was being done to adapt the out-dated and ineffective system, so I decided to explore it further myself. As an AMHP I had a clear understanding of the nuances of the Mental Health Act Code of Practice and did a great deal of research with stakeholders such as other AMHPs, Section 12 doctors, local authorities, commissioners, and administrators. The problem was recognised but there seemed to be no solution – there was an acceptance of the status quo.

When my idea was put to NHS Digital they encouraged me to take it forward independently. I found a business partner, and together in 2017 we set up S12 Solutions.

Over the next six months we registered the company, took the platform to proof of concept stage, and started to build a team. We negotiated six-month pilots, including seven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Cumbria and South West London, all of whom commissioned the platform. This gave us a huge amount of user feedback and enabled us to develop our work.

A huge milestone came when we were invited by Ruth Wilson, of Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, to exhibit and present at a Mental Health Digital event. This was a great networking opportunity where I met a variety of stakeholders from across the region. I am really pleased to say that as a result of meeting them these areas adopted the S12 Solutions platform.

The platform has attracted a larger pool of approved doctors during the pandemic, a great and much needed benefit, and a live digital link with the Department of Health and Social Care. This ensures any doctor on the platform is up to date with Section 12 accreditation, which is vitally important.

We’re now live or implemented across 60% of England including 91 Local Authorities, 38 Mental Health Trusts, and 79 CCGs.

COVID-19 has shone a light on mental health services. Professionals need  alternative methods of communication, and we have developed S12 Solutions Video Calling to enable assessing teams to carry out assessments remotely, and have also launched statutory Mental Health Act forms which can be completed, signed, and shared electronically.

The platform is regarded by Mental Health Trusts, CCGs, Local Authorities, the AHSNs and digital approvals body ORCHA, as part of a COVID-19 response plan. NHS England and NHS Improvement and its mental health digital team have also recognised the platform as a solution to adopt during the pandemic and beyond.

S12 Solutions sits as a bridge between health and social care and helps to bring the two areas together, in turn making the work of AMHPs and doctors easier and providing a more effective service for those in need of assessment.

To sum it up, S12 Solutions provides a faster, simpler digital system for AMHPs and doctors, to the benefit of those in need of assessment.

Visit S12 Solutions’ website to find out more.