Farewell - and welcome - to our RCPsych Scholars!

Thursday, 29 September, 2016

When we started the RCPsych Sustainability Scholars programme this time last year, we weren’t quite sure how it would all take shape. 

We had recruited four enthusiastic and talented psychiatry trainees prepared to commit one day per week, and we knew that our aims were (1) to help them become leaders for sustainability and (2) to start getting "knowledge into action". (We had lots of theoretical knowledge about sustainability in mental health thanks to Daniel’s two-year fellowship,  just completed; now it was time to get more of it into practice…)

With the imminent launch of the JCP-MH sustainable commissioning guide, we decided to focus on commissioning, and paired up each of our scholars with a clinical commissioning group (CCG) in their region. Their brief was to work out and complete some sort of project which supported the CCG to apply sustainability principles in the commissioning of a real life mental health service. We didn’t want to specify exactly what that would be, because we wanted to be sure it would be relevant and useful to what the CCGs were already working on.

It must have been a daunting prospect for our scholars! In a new role, working on a new agenda with busy CCGs, and without prior experience of commissioning… 

They were fantastic.

Yesterday, at a joint event with this year’s incoming scholars (and senior members of the RCPsych), we heard what our scholar-pioneers had achieved. In brief:

Dr. Oliver Bashford, ST6 in Older Adult Psychiatry in South East London worked with City & Hackney CCG on re-commissioning of the urgent referral (crisis) pathway. Oliver presented his project to analyse characteristics of service-users accessing crisis care; he was accompanied by mental health commissioner Dan Burningham, who explained how Oliver’s study will inform the development of preventative, community-based interventions.

Dr. Arif Ahmed, ST4 in Older Adult Psychiatry from the North West worked with Liverpool CCG, applying principles of sustainable commissioning to a review and redesign of liaison services, including making recommendations for sustainable outcome measures (which he and Oliver presented as a poster to the 2016 RCPsych Liaison Faculty conference). Arif has also led a sustainable quality improvement project with the Cumbria memory service. Kerry Harvey, joining the meeting by video link from Liverpool CCG, highlighted how valuable Arif had been in bringing both the clinical and the sustainability perspective to the commissioning process.

Dr. Suhana Ahmed, ST5 in General Adult and Old Age Psychiatry in South West London worked with Brighton & Hove CCG on commissioning of a new integrated homelessness service. Her projects included development of recommendations for evidence-based treatments that can be incorporated into mental health assessment/ engagement period for homeless people, and identifying factors for improving staff resilience.

Dr. Mike Pearce, ST4 in General Adult & Old Age Psychiatry in Oxford joined the review team for the older adult functional mental health service in Oxfordshire CCG. His input there included generating guidance on evidence-based risk factors and prevention strategies, and encouraging commissioning of services which could tackle these risk factors. We were also joined by Dr Jacqui Hussey and Caroline Blanchette of the Berkshire Younger Person with Dementia service, where Mike carried out a sustainability appraisal, demonstrating that the service delivers better outcomes than standard care, at an equivalent carbon cost - and with considerable financial savings to the NHS.

As well as their individual projects, the scholars have collaborated on a “mental health service review framework” - a tool designed for people wishing to systematically review a service for opportunities to embed the four sustainability principles (prevention, empowerment, higher value and lower carbon). 

Huge congratulations and thanks to the 2015-16 scholars for all your fantastic work, and for your enthusiastic and dauntless approach as pioneers! 

And a very warm welcome to the five 2016-17 scholars, who are already making contacts and sizing up potential projects with relish!