Improving mental health services in Lambeth one step at a time

Faced with a tight budget and fragmented services Lambeth’s CCG and council have taken the radical step of pooling budgets and services into the Living Well Network Alliance

Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group (who are responsible for organising health services) and Lambeth Council face a problem when looking at the mental health services. It was recognised that change was necessary because we are not fully addressing the issues that people with mental illness say are important to them.  The evidence shows that all too often those suffering from mental health issues end up in hospital which, whilst necessary for some, may not be the best place for everyone, and too many stay in hospital longer than they need to.

The system is not joined up and there are too many handoffs and referrals which results in too many admissions. While people using the beds need them when they are admitted if help was provided earlier people will get the care in the least restrictive way. A more streamlined and better linked up system will achieve this. Coupled with this, there is need across the whole public sector to make the most of the money we have. So, rather than muddling through and carrying out salami-slicing cuts the CCG and the council have come together to set up the Living Well Network Alliance. The aim is to join up services around the needs of those who use them; providing easier access and better services whilst also making the best use of the ‘public pound’.

Bring services together

The Living Well Network Alliance brings together those who use services, those who plan and buy services (commissioners) and those who deliver them (providers) to design, develop and deliver a new model of adult mental health services in Lambeth. For people who use services, this will make it easier and quicker to get the service they need and reduce the merry go round of referrals from one part of the system to another. The new approach will also make better use of professionals’ time and expertise by involving the voluntary and community sector where this makes sense. Importantly, the new approach will treat those who use services as equal partners, recognising that they come with strengths and ‘assets’ and involving them in the design and development of services generally and their care in particular.

Preventing illness

The Alliance will use this joined-up approach to focus more on preventing people getting ill in the first place and supporting them earlier when they are ill. As well as providing faster care, which is likely to mean a better result, it will also reduce the need for more expensive and less suitable hospital care. The Alliance is building on significant joint work which is already bearing fruit in the borough. For example, over 500 people each month are being supported by the Living Well Network Hub. Without this, many of these people would have had no support; some would have been left to manage alone, with the risk that they could get worse and be a risk to themselves or others or even need care in hospital.

The Alliance recognises that certain parts of Lambeth’s community, particularly black men, are often over-represented in the mental health system and that they report a worse experience of these services than others. The Alliance will do everything in its power to ensure that all sections of Lambeth’s community are treated equally and will work with those traditionally less engaged to design services that best meet their needs

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Living Well Network Alliance Partners