Sustainable models of care at CleanMed

Wednesday, 9 October, 2013

The major event in September for CSH was the annual CleanMed Europe Conference in Oxford. This was an event that looked at different aspects of sustainability in healthcare settings. It presented a real challenge to improving the sustainability of current healthcare models. 

The focus at CleanMed was different each day, with the first day focusing on ‘making the exceptional normal’. This was about different types of technological innovations that can reduce both financial and environmental costs in healthcare settings. There are so many opportunities to reduce costs dramatically from simply changing light bulbs, through waterless cleaning systems, to designing sustainable hospitals.

The second day focused on new models of care. The aim was to discuss new ways of working that can meet the ever-changing needs of our society while also reducing financial and environmental costs. There were many interesting talks including one by Sonia Roschnik who spoke engagingly at a plenary session about the SDU roadmap and how using this model can assist sustainable development in your local clinical service. Another talk given by Dr Daniel Maughan,  RCPsych Sustainability Fellow 2013-15, focussed on True Colours,  an innovative online self-management system that allows patients to monitor their mental health using text, email and the internet.  This innovation has been set up by Professor John Geddes in Oxford and is currently being piloted as an additional service to offer mental health patients across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. This innovation has the potential to empower patients through the process of self-monitoring. This improves patients’ understanding about their condition and potential risk factors for relapse. This system has the potential to maintain patients’ mental health for longer and therefore reduce mental health service use.

One phrase that was used frequently in this conference was “the most sustainable healthcare service is the one that doesn’t need to be there”. In other words, if you create the structures and environment for people to stay well then there will be less pressure on mental health services. The True Colours innovation hopefully will move services towards that ideal. 

The third day of the conference was about radical transformation in healthcare. This broadened out the concept of sustainable healthcare by discussing how the health of our whole society can be improved by thinking big! Green spaces, community cohesion and town planning can all have significant impacts on our health. One aspect addressed was that mental health professionals need to avoid limiting themselves to focusing on mental illness. Instead the focus should be changed to maintaining mental health. If this sustainable paradigm shift can happen amongst clinicians then it will pave the way for a larger transformation where mental health services move away from a focus on individuals with mental illness toward improving and maintaining community mental well being.