Removing the barriers to mental health care

In 2020, Somerset became one of the early implementers of the Community Mental Health Transformation by setting up an alliance between NHS teams and voluntary sector organisations (VCSE) called Open Mental Health (OMH).

Our shared ambition was to ensure that people living with mental health issues get the right support at the right time.

What we do

OMH aims to foster greater collaboration between services in the mental health sector and ensure that there is ‘no wrong door’ for anyone who needs help. We are committed to helping anyone in Somerset with finding the best offer available to meet their specific mental health needs.

Working together, we help people to live a full life by providing access to specialist services to help support and improve their wellbeing and quality of life, including:

  • Holistic wellbeing workers (one-to-one and group support)
  • Peer supporters/peer support workers
  • Psychologists,
  • Mental health nurses
  • Non-Medical Prescribers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Older and young people specialists
  • Eating disorder specialists
  • Developmental trauma specialists
  • Money and benefits support
  • Housing support

How we do it

We formed a voluntary sector alliance that would work in partnership with Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset Council to create a new way of working for the Somerset mental health system, coproduced by Experts by Experience (people with personal experience of mental health services).

Our Experts by Experience came up with the phrase ‘no wrong door, no shut door, no door at all’ to describe the kind of mental health sector we are working towards: one in which people seeking mental health support are not being bounced around the system and falling through gaps because they are either too poorly, not poorly enough or because the organisation they contacted first didn’t know how to connect them to the help they need. 

Building on extensive consultation work across the community and informed by the NHS Community Mental Health Framework, we co-produced an ambitious model which transformed mental health care in the county. The framework included:

  • Removing barriers to creating a ‘no wrong door’ approach
  • Removing thresholds to providing support
  • Smoothing transitions between primary and secondary care and from hospital back to community support
  • Reducing waiting times and give early access to primary care assessments and interventions
  • Reducing the needs for repeated assessments for each service
  • Developing community crisis spaces and a 24/7 supportive listening service
  • Supporting people in accessing housing, jobs and volunteering and in participating in community activities and physical exercise
  • Developing an interoperable service so that different all OMH partners can access the same care plan

Working together

Open Mental Health is an alliance between the following organisations:

  • NHS Somerset Foundation Trust
  • Age UK Somerset
  • The Balsam Centre
  • Rethink Mental Illness
  • Mind in Somerset
  • Watch CIC
  • Spark Somerset
  • Second Step
  • Young Somerset
  • Diversity Voice
  • Somerset County Council
  • NHS Somerset
  • Somerset Activity and Sport Partnership
  • Citizen’s Advice
  • Minehead Eye
  • 2BU
  • Conquest Centre
  • Fuse Performance

We work together to ensure individuals get the right care for their mental health. When an individual contacts us for support they are referred to one of our four locality hubs across Somerset, where a team of professionals discuss which OMH services are best placed to meet the person’s individual needs.

Our multi-disciplinary teams meet weekly to discuss cases and decide which partner agency is best placed to provide the care they need. Working in partnership has enabled services and agencies to work from one care plan and not in silos.

Measuring Success

As of September 2022 in Somerset:

•   More people accessed support than before Open Mental Health began

  • 3,500 interventions on average per month delivered by Open Mental Health

•   Around 650 calls to Mindline (24/7 telephone service) per week

•   350 appointments available per month at our crisis safe spaces

•   Citizens Advice providing specialist casework to approximately 160 clients at any one time – we are seeing demand increasing in this area

•   Our Next Steps service, offering support with safe discharge for 95 people leaving an acute inpatient mental health ward from April to September, and 96% of these stayed well for the three months post discharge

•   Our service user feedback demonstrates that we have provided high quality support “in the moment” and de-escalated people in significant distress

•   The average wait for people contacting OMH to receiving support from a VCSE partner is three days.

•   Lower waiting times for psychological therapies and a recovery rate higher than the national average

•   No patients are placed out of area and Somerset Foundation Trust continues to be a national leader for its low levels of patients placed out of area

•   New VCSE partners are joining the alliance – we now have 18 delivery partners and over 85 grant-funded network partners

OMH has funded over 85 grassroots and micro-organisations, giving over £650,000 in total towards services and projects which reach people who might not otherwise be in contact with services or be reluctant to access wider support.

In May 2022, OMH won a major national award as part of NHSE/I Big Conversation Awards, in the ‘collaborating for improvement’ category, for its collective achievement in developing and delivering new ways to enhance care within the Somerset mental health system.

The Somerset Foundation Trust also won HSJ’s Mental Health Trust of the Year award in 2021, in recognition of its work to transform mental health services in the county.

Sharing success

Using the learning from OMH, Rethink Mental Illness have produced two guides for transforming community mental health in line with the NHS Long Term Plan and Community Mental Health Framework.

The Somerset system has also presented our findings and shared our expertise further at a range of national and regional events and been asked to contribute to learning for the national roll out of community mental health services transformation.