Mental health network

Innovative partnerships can help address the mental health crisis | Chris Hampson

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Chris Hampson

Chris Hampson, chief executive of Look Ahead, a specialist care, support and housing provider, considers why greater partnership working is needed between health, social care and housing.

From Look Ahead’s experience of providing specialist mental health services, it’s my belief that social care and housing organisations can provide innovative solutions to the mental health crisis, but we urgently need to create more partnerships with health to do so. 

There is plenty of space out there for innovative partnership working, but often it is not happening quickly enough. Look Ahead and similar organisations are in an excellent position to integrate the health, housing and social care sectors at the front line. 

We also have the added advantage that our property portfolio means we can quickly access buildings to deliver services. But we need commissioners in health to engage with us more quickly to deliver this vision.

Excellent partnership working is happening in some places:

  • Our housing and advice workers (HAWKs) are working with South London and Maudsley (SLAM) NHS Foundation Trust to facilitate access to housing for individuals who can’t leave hospital due to unsuitable housing. This service is a cost effective ‘quick win’ for the problem of delayed discharge on mental health wards.
  • Crisis and Recovery Houses provide alternatives to hospital admission for individuals in mental health crisis, and the community setting and partnership working with clinicians provides a safe and supportive environment. We run an excellent Crisis House service in partnership with the East London NHS Foundation Trust. But the question remains: why aren’t more of these services being commissioned?
  • In our Crisis House and South London services, our staff are trained by health workers to deliver a mobile clozapine titration service in the community. It’s cost effective, easy to set up and improves patient experience, as they are able to avoid hospital. I have to wonder, why are there not more of these services?
These are just a few examples of how health, social care and housing can deliver positive outcomes for patients and savings for the public purse. But we need to create more partnerships, and for that we need the health sector to be willing to work with us to develop and deliver new integrated models. 

The partnership with SLAM came about when they told us about their problem of delayed discharge due to patients having unsuitable housing arrangements. They knew we had the expertise to help and they were willing to pilot the service. As the problem of delayed discharge is almost universal, I have to wonder why there aren’t more of these pilots in other areas.

I know that by working together, health, social care and housing could be doing more to support people with mental health needs in the community, avoiding hospital admissions and delayed discharges. But it’s frustrating for all of us that it’s not happening quickly enough. 

There needs to be a willingness from all sides to pilot new innovative service models to help address the mental health crisis that is continuing to dominate headlines and shock our country.

Chris Hampson is the chief executive of Look Ahead, a member of the Mental Health Network (MHN). Chris is also an MHN board member. Follow Look ahead on Twitter @lookaheadtweets

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