Person using a computer

Giving children and young people access to the mental health services they need

The Children and Young People's Mental Health Policy Team came asking for help with a system that wasn't working. Luckily we knew what to do.


In April 2019 NHSE/I Children and Young People’s Mental Health (CYPMH) Policy Team told us they needed a better mental health demand/capacity modelling tool.

The tool they had already was meant to provide useable data, allowing leadership to allocate resources and meet demand over the medium-term. The problem was… no one was using it.

Without the information, they were meant to have, commissioners and providers were forced to rely on more piecemeal data when considering pathway changes and undertaking planning rounds.

This all meant conversations about resourcing and planning were not as transparently evidence-based as they could have been. This risked inefficiencies and a lack of clarity between commissioners and providers.

The SCW mental health team has a relationship with the national CYMPH team going back to 2015. We were tasked with building a model which staff would work with and delivered useable data in real-time – by June 2020.


Our mental health team carried out broad audience testing – with emphasis on those who had withdrawn from the existing model.  We discovered that staff struggled to log-in and found the sheer amount of information they were expected to provide frustrating.

The interface did not put the user first. It had multiple screens and the user journey was challenging. A common response was 'I logged in and was presented with a blank screen. I didn’t know what to do so I logged out again.'

We put together a project team of mental health experts and developers who used their expertise to make sure any new tool – and the language it used – suited its audience.

The result was ‘CReST’ – Children and Young People's Mental Health Referral System Management Tool.

Gone was the need for multiple data requests. CReST has just three questions:

  1. How many referrals do you get a year?
  2. What’s your average number of sessions/average length of stay?
  3. How many appointments/beds do you have on average?

On inputting data, users are provided with real-time, downloadable/shareable outputs. It doesn’t replace decision-making but – with higher levels of adoption – it allows leaders to have capacity discussions secure in the knowledge of real-world need.

The arrival of COVID-19 brought the rollout deadline forward to March 2020, but our team still managed to complete it on time and within budget.


Since launching the renewed tool, there are over 1,400 registered users from across the country. We have worked with individual systems, colleagues and regions to model CYP MH pathways, outputs which have supported successful business cases and informed service redesign.  

Quarterly introduction webinars have been held, as well as current user groups, increasing the reach of the tool and enabling colleagues to model pathways and support their local intelligence.  

We will further develop the CReST tool and align this with a prototype, which will enhance the current efficiency and functionality of CReST, delivering modelling at scale and across many services. 

The improved tool will: 

  • Deliver Erlang demand and capacity models/scenarios for many services and/or pathways simultaneously
  • Be populated directly from a simple data-file 
  • Deliver a 12-month forward view, considering any potential emerging backlog 
  • Deliver fully portable digital outputs to the user
  • Generate options for the user to download charts and data tables, with information about their selections included in the downloaded image 

Models based on surges (such as COVID-19 demand), focusing on backlogs, and taking seasonality into account will also be generated. 

Systems can utilise the tool at ICS level for all their CYP Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing pathways and due to the mechanisms around data entry; it will save users time (compared to manually entering data for different modelling scenarios). 

The additional functionality on the tool will be delivered during 2022-23, with supplementary user guides and marketing of the tool for ICS.

To find out more, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


More case studies