Six months in... the RCPsych Sustainability Scholars

Wednesday, 9 March, 2016

In Autumn 2015, four psychiatry trainees were appointed as part-time Sustainability Scholars, charged with taking forward the work begun by  Dr. Daniel Maughan in the 2013-15 RCPsych Sustainability Fellowship. While Daniel's Fellowship focused on research and policy development, the Scholarships are about getting things into practice. With support from CSH, each Scholar is paired with a forward-thinking clinical commissioning group (CCG) to work on practical projects for sustainable commissioning.

So what have they been up to in their first six months? Here is a brief run-down:

Dr. Arif Ahmed, ST4 Older Adult Psychiatry, North West

Working with Liverpool CCG on review and redesign of liaison psychiatry services

Project: Applying principles of sustainable commissioning to a review and redesign of liaison services. Development of sustainable outcome measures.

Dr. Suhana Ahmed, ST5 General Adult and Old Age Psychiatry, South West London

Working with Brighton & Hove CCG on commissioning a new integrated homelessness service

Project: Development of recommendations for evidence-based treatments that can be incorporated into mental health assessment/ engagement period for homeless people.

Dr. Oliver Bashford, ST6 Older Adult Psychiatry, South East London

Working with Hackney & City CCG on redesign of the urgent referral (crisis) pathway

Project: Review of different models of Single Point of Access to optimise the sustainability of a new service; developing a business case for socially sustainable models of crisis intervention.

Dr. Mike Pearce, ST4 General Adult and Old Age Psychiatry, Oxford

Working with Oxfordshire CCG on redesign of the older adult functional mental health service

Project: Reviewing risk factors and potential prevention strategies to reduce the development of depression in the elderly population, and mapping CCG assets; Performing a sustainability appraisal of a Young Person with Dementia service (Berkshire) with emphasis on positive social outcomes and carbon footprinting.

Joint working 

As well as working individually, some joint projects are planned - including carbon footprinting pilots and a possible learning event for CCGs.


Relationship building with CCGs has taken time and effort. This is partly because of the novel format of the programme, in which trainee doctors are embedded within commissioning teams, and partly because everyone is still working out the best way for recommendations on sustainable commissioning to be applied in practice. However, each Scholar has successfully connected with the relevant people at their CCG and has been assigned to a commissioning team for a mental health service that is currently being redeveloped. By attending meetings and liaising with CCG leads, and with support from Dr. Frances Mortimer (CSH Medical Director) and Dr. Phil Davison (RCPsych Sustainability Lead), priorities have been developed and projects are now taking shape. 

Although challenging, working in the complex real-world environment of mental health commissioning is crucial. Without this, sustainability guidance will remain theoretical. The experience has also been invaluable for the Scholars, who are gaining different perspectives on healthcare and developing skills in communications, project management and commissioning. 

Look out for more updates from the Scholars on Psych Susnet over their final six months!