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.

The challenge

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 approach

Our mental health team carried out broad audience testing – with emphasis on those who had withdrawn from the existing model.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.

The result

  • Active users increased from 4 to 80
  • Registered users have risen from 112 to 362*
  • The scale of metrics entered reflects a significant increase in use
  • Simple web platform means increased use nationwide – and even as far as Australia

CReST has since been recognised nationally as the recommended planning tool for Children and Young People’s Mental Health within the LTP NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24.

*Data accurate as of 2020

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