The first CLEAR national mental health transformation programme resulted in more than 30 recommendations to reduce waiting times, improve access, extend capacity and increase staff retention.

They included the creation of a new trauma only team of therapists and new roles to respond to the patients needing urgent support enabling other staff to continue providing planned care.

Six trusts took part in the mental health Clinically Led workforcE and Activity Redesign Programme (CLEAR) which was commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) to support NHS trusts reach the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Clinicians were guided through CLEAR’s 26-week innovation and workforce redesign programme focussing on three key areas of care: Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), care provided by community mental health teams and acute mental health inpatient care.

The key challenges they faced and the main themes of their recommendations to tackling the pressures on the sector are published today in a new report, the CLEAR national mental health programme Phase one: key findings and learning.

Head of Workforce Transformation at Health Education England Kirstie Baxter said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic placed mental health services under even greater strain. The CLEAR Mental Health Programme was launched to find clinically led solutions to enable faster access for the escalating number of people needing urgent support.

“This report demonstrates how those closest to the delivery of care using the CLEAR methodology can result in practical proposals to increase capacity, staff experience and improve equality of access.”

The key challenges for the six trusts were focussed around three themes:

  • the rising complexity of people needing mental health services and staff feeling unable to provide the level of care required
  • increased demand on services was exceeding capacity, resulting in long waiting times and a workforce at risk of burnout
  • referrals misaligned to some services with high incidence of people being re-referred or not receiving treatment.

Trust clinicians made a total of 34 recommendations to their executive teams which fell into three categories:

  • new pathways and triage – to ensure people are directed to the right service first, with early assessment to reduce waiting and treatment times
  • new processes – to improve timely access and capacity​, reducing the risk while people are waiting for treatment and easing pressure on staff;
  • new roles and services – to increase teams’ effectiveness and extend capacity, improving outcomes, staff wellbeing, satisfaction and retention

CLEAR Programme National Lead Dr John Jeans said:

“We’re committed to supporting the NHS expand and improve mental health services. This programme has shown how the CLEAR methodology empowers clinicians to lead change in a sector which is under sustained pressure.”

The national CLEAR programme trains clinicians to use a combination of big data analysis, clinical insight and local knowledge to deliver new models of care and workforce redesign. It is hosted by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and delivered by the trust and 33n, a team of NHS clinicians, data engineers and scientists who are united in their passion to improve services, address workforce challenges and enhance patient care.

Read the CLEAR National Mental Health Programme: Phase one key findings and learning report.

Read the blog from Deirdre Williams, Clinical Psychologist and CLEAR Associate on her experiences of taking part in the CLEAR Mental Health programme.