Somerset’s Open Mental Health alliance recognised with national NHS Improvement Award

13 May 2022

Somerset’s Open Mental Health alliance has won a major national award from NHS Improvement, recognising the collective achievement in developing and delivering new ways to enhance care within the Somerset mental health system.

Since 2020, the alliance has set out to transform the traditional model of care, creating a ‘no wrong door’ approach so that people’s needs are responded to regardless of where they come into contact with services, making the system more efficient and easier for people to navigate. A key principle of the approach has been to work with experts by experience to co-produce services which truly meet their needs.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Open Mental Health has worked effectively together to start transforming community mental health care for people in Somerset, with more people accessing support than ever before. People can now access new initiatives such as the 24/7 crisis telephone line, crisis cafes and other services which support people with all the things in life which can influence their mental health, including debt and employment advice, volunteering opportunities, and community activities to help reduce feelings of isolation.

This collaboration of local voluntary organisations, the NHS and social care has already helped to remove many of the barriers to support and thresholds for treatment, reducing waiting times and giving early access to primary care assessments and interventions.

Jane Yeandle, Service Director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Open Mental Health has been a true partnership between Experts by Experience, Recovery Partners, the NHS, County Council and Voluntary and Community Sector Enterprises (VCSEs). Working at pace, during a pandemic, we have delivered an innovative offer that will make a real difference to people in Somerset. Somerset Foundation Trust and Somerset CCG are proud to have been part of this and are enormously grateful to front line staff, Experts by Experience, Recovery Partners and our VCSE colleagues who have all contributed to this award win.”

Beccy Wardle, Head of NHS Collaboration at Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“This achievement is a result of a monumental effort across the county, with organisations of all shapes and sizes coming together with a shared determination to improve mental health support. Integral to the success of this collaboration is the contribution of experts by experience, who have helped shape services so that they meet people’s needs.

“Somerset is a trailblazer for NHS England’s community mental health transformation, and we’ve been proud to be the accountable body for the Voluntary and Community Sector. We hope this collaboration provides inspiration and a blueprint for what can be achieved in other areas across the country.”

Angela Kerr, CEO, Citizens Advice Somerset, said:

“The Open Mental Health partnership has been one of the most worthwhile initiatives that I have worked on. It is fantastic that our unique approach and hard work has been recognised and celebrated beyond Somerset.”

Jo Poole, an Expert by Experience leader for Open Mental Health, said:

“So many people have worked so hard to create Open Mental Health in Somerset, and I really enjoyed celebrating our achievements at the awards. It was brilliant to have the opportunity to speak about our new way of doing things, to demonstrate how co-production is at the heart of it all and key to making sure services are designed to meet people’s needs.”

Open Mental Health is a Somerset alliance of local voluntary organisations, the NHS and social care, working in partnership to ensure local people get the support the need, when they need it. It includes the NHS Somerset Foundation Trust, Age UK Somerset, the Balsam Centre, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind in Somerset, Watch CIC, Citizen’s Advice, SWEDA, Spark Somerset, Second Step, Young Somerset, Diversity Voice, Somerset County Council, Somerset CCG, Somerset Activity and Sport Partnership.