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Trailblazing project offers better care for older people with mental health needs

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An innovative mental health care solution is being tested in some parts of Lancashire and South Cumbria to empower older people with mental health needs to regain their independence and quality of life.

Mental health hospital patients who are ready for discharge will be moved to and supported in a community setting, where they will be assessed in a care home over a six-week period to understand what support they need in place in order to return home, or a longer-term care setting.

Currently, patients are assessed in hospital. This new approach frees up the hospital bed sooner and assesses the person in a more natural environment to identify what that person is capable of doing for themselves and what they really need.

This is a trailblazing partnership initiative between the NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), Lancashire County Council, and Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust.

Patients benefit from extra support from mental health social workers, mental health nurses, a residential care team, and therapists such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists depending on their need.

One innovative part of the pilot is the use of digital technology experts as part of the team, who will work with residents to help them to gain confidence with today’s technology. Digital technologies, such as digital smart medicine cabinets to video conferencing, can help improve quality of life.

Dr Gareth Thomas, Deputy Chief medical officer and clinical lead for the project at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an innovative approach to provide holistic care closer to home, allowing people to maintain dignity, helping them reach their potential and retain independence.”

Fleur Carney, ICB Mental Health Director, said: “This is a really exciting programme that is already gaining attention from other areas who are keen to follow our example. It would not be possible without the excellent partnership working of everyone involved.

“Our ambition in Lancashire and South Cumbria is that mental health and wellbeing is considered of equal importance to physical health in all of our communities. When people require more support, they should be able to access an effective range of age-appropriate mental health services. This is one of many approaches we are taking to offer open parity of esteem for people with mental health needs to the intermediate care system.”

Councillor Graham Gooch, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: “This trailblazing project provides a ground-breaking approach that aligns with this vision, enabling people to maintain their dignity and retain their independence.

“We anticipate it will provide truly personalised care that meets need and is yet another example of how effective collaborative working can achieve better outcomes for Lancashire residents.”

The pilot started in September making use of three care homes in East Lancashire, Preston and Morecambe Bay and will run until March 2023. The hope is to learn from the pilot before extending it to other areas.

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