NHS Gloucestershire CCG digitalises access to children’s mental health services

Gloucestershire children and young people’s mental health services has launched a digital support-finder.

The online mental health support finder acts as a single front door for young people’s mental health services. It makes it easier to understand, find and access support. It also gives young people more choice and control in their care. For health practitioners it provides accurate advice and signposting to referral services.

NHS Gloucestershire CCG partnered with user-centred service design specialists Mace & Menter, who led on discovery, research and design. 

The project first involved exploratory research with the local community and school groups. Next, rounds of user research and prototype-testing established the range of user needs. For example, the CCG relied on practitioners and trusted adults to provide signposting to mental health support. Alternative ways of finding appropriate support were less clear.

Public sector technology experts Made Tech delivered technical strategy and delivery. The discovery and first build of the solution was completed in eight-weeks. User feedback was taken into account throughout development. This means that the final service will deliver on the needs of the young people of Gloucestershire and was completed within budget. 

Both companies worked to the NHS service standard. This addresses the different needs and complexities of health service users.

The support finder guides people through a series of questions to understand how they are feeling and what support might be needed. Users are then signposted to the most relevant service for their needs and given useful support information about mental health.

The results are available to young people, their parents and carers via the website and SMS. Providing SMS access was an important element of the service. It needed to be accessible and secure for any child or young person to use, regardless of their access to a computer. 

The service has been designed with security at its core, making sure users’ data is protected.

The baseline architecture and codebase was developed under open standards principles and is available to other NHS trusts to use for free. This lets trusts with similar patient needs to reuse and adapt the solution, without vendor lock-in.

Helen Ford is Programme Director for Integrated Commissioning at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group. She said: “Young people often find asking for help with mental health difficult. Our new resource acts as a virtual helping hand to guide people to the right support.

“The support-finder allows children and young people to make informed choices about the services they use. While we developed the resource with young people in mind, we expect a range of professionals, parents and carers to use it too.”

Sam Menter, Managing Director of Mace & Menter, said: “The NHS service standard is now giving NHS teams the confidence to work in a more user-centred way. Allowing them to improve health pathways and digital transformation. It was great to work with a team who embraced this new way of working. We founded Mace & Menter to work on projects that have the potential to improve people’s lives. So this was a great fit for our skills and values. We will track the impact over the coming year.”

Hazel Jones, Head of Health at Made Tech: “We are proud to deliver better mental health services to young people in Gloucestershire. Collaboration and user testing across disabilities, digital skills and accessibility needs was key. 

“Thorough and rapid discovery, alpha and beta testing phases meant we were able to make the best possible version of the technology. We designed the service based on feedback from users to meet their needs. These improvements mean thousands more people can access mental health support.”

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