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Improving mental health services across our region

Written by: Juvaria Hassan and Mark Dines-Allen - 27th October 2023

Mental health conditions can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds and can have a significant impact on their ability to function and enjoy life. In this blog, Project Managers Mark Dines-Allen and Juvaria Hassan explore how we have worked closely with our health and care colleagues to increase the uptake of two national programmes that support children and young adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and eating disorders.

Helping young adults with eating disorders

Eating disorders can have a huge impact on a young person’s life both physically and emotionally, affecting relationships with friends and their family, and causing anxiety. People experiencing an eating disorder often become more isolated, withdrawn and avoid social situations.

We supported the First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for Eating Disorders (FREED), which is a programme for 16 to 25-year-olds, who have had an eating disorder for three years or less. Young people seeking help through FREED are given rapid access to specialised treatment focused on the specific challenges we know young people face, and in the early stages of the condition. The programme has shown significant patient benefits helping to reduce anxiety as well as a reduction in the levels of disengagement from those needing treatment.

We have worked closely with several organisations in our region to assess how FREED could be integrated into existing eating disorder services and pathways. We provided programme management support to various companies, including NHS partners and a charity, and supported the part-funding of a tailored role called a ‘FREED champion’ that sits within the wider eating disorders team to help deliver the programme.

This approach helped to successfully deploy the programme at City Health Care Partnership, CIC and NAVIGO in Humber and North Yorkshire and at Sheffield Health and Social Care Partnership NHS Trust and South Yorkshire Eating Disorder Association in South Yorkshire.

Shared learning

As of June 2023, 157 young people have benefitted from the FREED service which has had a positive impact on their wellbeing and care outcomes. As an organisation, we are integral members of the clinical network and through this, over the last two years we have organised two community of practice events to share the successes and challenges of implementing the programme. As part of this partnership with the clinical network, we hosted a lunch and learn session that was attended by our FREED champions and universities interested in learning more about the programme, so they can adopt this into their mental health services.

Using an objective computer-based assessment to diagnose ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. Many might struggle to concentrate and often feel unsettled and restless. It can have a huge impact on their social lives and their emotional development and in young people, this can mean that they struggle in school. It’s not always simple to determine if a child has ADHD. Traditionally, clinicians diagnose this condition through a subjective assessment including observation of the child, a series of interviews with the patient and parents and reports from other significant people, such teachers.

The National Focus ADHD programme uses an objective assessment tool (QbTest) as a supplement, rather than a replacement for conventional clinical examination and subjective assessments and reports. The assessment evaluates all three core components of ADHD (attention, motor activity and impulsivity) and compares these to normal values from a sample of children without the condition.

Supporting trusts in our region

In Yorkshire and Humber, we provided tailored support to trusts wishing to implement the programme, including supporting trusts in the development of business cases or helping to secure funding to pilot the QbTest. Programme management support and resources were made available for all sites including supplying details of the evidence base and implementation plans. In addition, we provided support to ensure that all IT and information governance requirements were met.

Since the implementation of the programme in 2020, we have continued to support the roll-out of the QbTest, which is now available in all NHS trusts in our region. The test is now offered in 18 sites in total and has benefitted 4,892 patients between April 2020 – March 2023.

Find out more about our impacts in this year’s Impact Report.