While some of the vanguard sites developing new care models report promising early results from adopting a whole-person approach, the full opportunities to improve care through integrated approaches to mental health have not yet been realised.
This report draws on our recent research with vanguard sites in England, conducted in partnership with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We found that where new models of care have been used to remove the barriers between mental health and other parts of the health system, local professionals saw this as being highly valuable in improving care for patients and service users. But there remains much to be done to fully embed mental health into integrated care teams, primary care, urgent and emergency care pathways, and in work on population health.
Knowledge and skills around psychology and mental health are important features of integrated care, whatever the client group.
Emerging evidence from some vanguard sites suggests that integrated approaches to mental health can help to support improved performance across the wider health system.
Despite this, the level of priority given to mental health in the development of new models of care has not always been sufficiently high.
Some areas report that new models of care have made it easier for local professionals to obtain informal advice from mental health professionals without making a referral, creating a more seamless experience for patients.
Working closely with voluntary sector organisations has allowed integrated care teams in some vanguard sites to better support the mental health and wellbeing of people with complex needs.
Testing the mental health components of existing vanguard sites must be a central part of the evaluation strategy for the new care models.
Other local areas rolling out multispecialty community providers, primary and acute care systems and related care models should go further than the vanguard sites in four key areas:
complex needs: enabling local integrated care teams to draw on and incorporate mental health expertise to support people with complex care needs
long-term care: equipping primary care teams to address the wide range of mental health needs in general practice (including among people presenting primarily with physical symptoms)
urgent care: strengthening mental health support for people using A&E departments and other forms of emergency care
whole-population health: placing greater emphasis on promoting positive mental wellbeing in the population, in particular among children and young people, and during and after pregnancy.
All sustainability and transformation plans should set out ambitious but credible plans for improving mental health and integrating mental health into new models of care.