RD&E & DPT win the HSJ Mental Health Initiative of the Year Award

29 Sep 2021

A ground-breaking collaboration between the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) and Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT) in connecting the physical and mental health services for gastroenterology patients, has been named the Mental Health Initiative of the Year, at the 2021 HSJ Patient Safety Awards.

The ‘Gastroenterology Big Room’ project in Devon connects physical and mental health services to improve the experience of gastroenterology patients. The team’s aim was to join up the physical treatment with the way mental health needs were detected and managed as well as addressing the long waiting times for psychological therapy for gastroenterology patients.

In announcing the winners, the HSJ judge said, “The judges were very impressed with the cultural shift that this initiative had enabled. Patients spoke passionately about the difference that the service had made and the trust that had been developed between clinicians, commissioners and patients in ensuring that pathways were truly co-produced and were meaningful. The level of clinical ownership to the model was commendable and this is a great example of a step towards integrated care systems.”

Speaking about this new service, a patient said, “[The Psychologist has] helped me to find a purpose, which helped me put my life back on track.”

Dr Joanna Bromley, Clinical Director and Liaison Consultant, DPT explains: “It is well evidenced that many gastroenterology patients with chronic and functional conditions also suffer from emotional and mental health problems. However, it is rare that patients who undergo gastroenterology assessment or investigation have their mental health needs or psychological wellbeing considered or screened for.

“With this in mind, the project focused its efforts on creating a much more holistic approach to the treatment of gastroenterology conditions, making sure that patients and staff better understand the link between mental and physical health and to ensure that essential mental health support is more readily available to the patients that need it.

“We are absolutely delighted and very proud to win this award.”

The team used a screening tool to assess the mental health of their gastroenterology patients. On average 36% of all new RD&E referrals had clinically significant depression and anxiety symptoms, and this rose to 46% in patients with functional irritable bowel syndrome presentations.

The Devon team’s approach is being shared and celebrated across the Flow Coaching Academy network as well as other hospitals in Devon to improve healthcare outcomes and patient experience. The integrated physical and mental health screening tool has now been adapted into an electronic form and shared widely. This means that from now, any patients that are referred to the RD&E by their GPs for gastroenterological issues will be assessed using the new holistic approach, with the intention for other hospitals to adopt this approach.

Vida Cairnes, Lead Inflammatory Bowel Disease Nurse Specialist, added: “The collaboration between mental health and the inflammatory bowel disease nursing teams in particular has demonstrated a tangible shift in practice, where provision of teaching to improve understanding of available psychological treatments and establishing new referral pathways, has been pivotal in the evolution of IBD patient care locally.

“Talking openly about mental health and psychological distress with our patients and colleagues has benefited patients and staff, increasing confidence, boosting morale, and building trusted relationships.”

Chris Tidman, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the RD&E and NDHT, said: “I congratulate everyone involved in this work across RD&E and DPT, they can be rightly proud of this achievement and recognition of what we’ve achieved for our patients. There was clear determination to really understand the experience of our patients and make changes to the way we worked to improve their care."

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