To support and inspire a community of Children and Young People’s Mental Health (CYPMH) practitioners to adopt user-centred, digital ways of working.
A suite of digital resources enabling CYPMH teams across the NHS to design their own local service transformations, freeing them up to reach more vulnerable children and young people with vital mental health support.
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Demands on the 60+ local Children and Young People’s Mental Health (CYPMH) organizations have increased significantly in a decade. Young people were worst affected by the pandemic, with 1 in 6 children aged 5-19 having a probable mental health disorder in 2020, compared to 1 in 9 in 2017. These vulnerable young people and their families need access to quality mental health services, wherever they live and whatever their personal circumstances.
This booming need has collided with the sudden shift to a remote-first environment, propped up by the rapid rollout of virtual consultations, crisis text lines, CBT apps, text therapy, and more.
Health workers and practitioners have been under unprecedented pressure and were in need of support, fast.
Collaborating to catalyse digital learning
While commonly referred to in the singular, the NHS actually consists of thousands of separate organizations spread across the country. This fragmented structure means that using digital to its full potential can be difficult. There was an opportunity to build upon the positive strides that had already been made by NHS transformation teams and bring creativity to this systemic challenge.
NHSX approached IDEO and Public Digital, IDEO’s sister company, to design user-centred resources that would empower CYPMH practitioners to use digital more effectively, shifting service design from a reactive to a proactive process and allowing each regional organisation to create the best digital services for their children and young people.
But what started as a clear-cut delivery project took on a renewed strategic significance, helping to break down institutional silos, catalyse digital learning and consider the way healthcare is delivered in a connected world.
Engaging with frontline health workers
IDEO, Public Digital and NHSX took a human-centred approach, tapping into the perspectives, challenges and needs of NHS practitioners and leaders across the system over months of research. They then presented back their findings via the lens of a fictional CYMPH practitioner, "Jane," to place the digital transformation journey in a hyper-specific context.
Inspired by this research, the team then designed a set of accessible, straightforward online resources, courses and templates that enabled "Jane" and her colleagues to start their own local service transformations. These included everything from practical advice on improving users’ experiences of CYPMH, to learning methods for service design, to content focused on achieving digital transformation at scale.
These resources were easy to implement and replicate, allowing mental health practitioners across the country to seamlessly integrate physical and digital, create firebreaks in the system, and better bridge the gap between seeking care and receiving it.
Meaningful change takes time, particularly in a system as complex as the NHS. But the project is already having a notable impact on the pace and quality of service delivered by CYPMH practitioners. Practitioners across NHS trusts in England have taken masterclasses and adopted the new resources, potentially enabling thousands more children and young people to access an increased range of options for their mental health care. And the resources have been designed to evolve over time, as digital transformation continues within CYMPH and as more content emerges from local trusts and partnerships.
What’s more, the work is replicable across the NHS, with the potential to touch millions of lives. IDEO and Public Digital designed a roadmap to support NHSX in scaling the project across every region and department. This will allow practitioners nationwide to collaborate and develop digital solutions that lead to real outcomes, improving both their own lives and those of their patients.
“Previously, the national NHS bodies tended to either implement changes nationally or offer funding to regional bodies for them to use how they wish”, said Simon Dixon, Deputy Director for User Centred Design, NHSX. “This work with IDEO and Public Digital allowed us to find a collaborative middle ground—one that we now know works as a model of transformation.”
Healthcare is not a simple transaction. It is a complex web of institutions, interaction, relationships and services, in which human-centred design has an enormous role to play. By empowering practitioners to utilise these digital tools to ease the burden of care, we can create a positive ripple effect across the entire NHS, its partner organizations, and the country at large.