Building the capacity of front-line NHS staff to promote mental health & wellbeing

Client: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

The Challenge

The NHS often prioritises remedial care for specific physical illnesses over taking a holistic view of an individual’s wellbeing. Some say this approach misses an opportunity to intervene in ways that builds patient resilience and prevents ill health in the future.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 included a new legal duty for the NHS to focus on improving mental health as much as physical health, ensuring that people with mental health problems receive an equal standard of care. To this end, Public Health England guidance recommends investing in the public mental health capability of NHS staff to ensure that they have the confidence to promote good mental health, prevent mental illness and improve the quality of life for people with mental health issues. The project is both a response to the Public Health England guidance and Making Every Contact Count recommendation.

What was needed?

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) had the ambition to develop a training programme for front-line NHS staff in South London so that they are better able to have conversations with patients about their mental health and wellbeing. 

Uscreates were asked to generate insights from service users and providers to inform the design and delivery of the training programmes. This then led to working with academic partners and the training delivery team to develop robust programmes that could be piloted at King’s College Hospital (KCH), and then scaled across South London.

What we did:

  • We worked with SLaM and KCH to develop a research methodology and strategy for recruiting patients (‘users’) and front-line staff (‘providers’). We were keen to recruit a cross section of staff and patients with varying levels of ability and need. We then produced a discussion guide and interactive insight tools – such as user scenarios and journey maps – that captured the evidence in a way that supports the design of a new training programme for front-line NHS staff.
  • We engaged service users and providers through a series of interactive interviews and focus groups, using the Wheel of Wellbeing to help participants explore and pinpoint their meaning of wellbeing. We also conducted a survey of providers to identify their perceived confidence, ability and knowledge when talking to patients about different aspects of their wellbeing.
  • Next we synthesised the data identifying precise opportunities for staff to have conversations with patients about their wellbeing. We mapped this insight against the capacity and capability of staff to deliver effective interventions. Where patients are engaged about their wellbeing and capable to make necessary changes to their lives, staff might focus on signposting healthy activities and local services. Where patients are less engaged and capable, the focus should be on in-depth conversations in the right setting, supporting patients to critically reflect on the challenge.
  • We shared insights with academic partners and the training delivery team, with insight tools including: a segmentation of users and providers, personas, journey maps, barriers and opportunities for meaningful conversations, and principles for effective mental health and wellbeing messaging. This supported the design and delivery of the Minding Health pilot training programme in South London.

The results:

The Royal Society for Public Health evaluated the effectiveness of the Minding Health pilot training programme, finding:

  • 47% of participants in the training increased their acceptance that their roles allowed them to influence the wellbeing of others;
  • 70% increased their knowledge about the factors which can influence wellbeing; and
  • 83% increased knowledge and confidence to signpost others to activities which can improve mental wellbeing.