In a study undertaken in July 2020, the first summer of the COVID pandemic, the NHS found that clinically significant mental health conditions amongst children had risen by 50% compared to three years earlier.
When the pandemic hit, mental health workers and practitioners supporting children and youth were under unprecedented pressure, and needed support, fast. In the United Kingdom, one in six children aged 5-19 were reported to have a probable mental health disorder in 2020; three years earlier, it was just one in nine. These vulnerable young people and their families needed access to quality mental health services, no matter where in the country they lived. Together, NHSX—England’s National Health Services health tech unit—IDEO, and Public Digital, IDEO’s sister company, collaborated to create a suite of digital resources that enabled organizations across the NHS to transform their services, allowing them to provide mental health support for more vulnerable children and young people.
Embracing digital transformation
Resources are helping children and young people access more options for their mental health care
Healthcare is a complex web of institutions, interaction, relationships, and services. In England, the National Health Service consists of thousands of separate organizations spread across the country. This fragmented structure means that rolling out digital tools and using them to their full potential can be difficult.
NHSX approached IDEO and Public Digital, IDEO’s sister company, for help designing user-centered resources that would empower Children and Young People’s Mental Health (CYPMH) practitioners to use digital tools more effectively, shifting service design from a reactive to a proactive process, and allowing each regional organization to create the best digital services for their children and young people.
The team took a human-centered approach, tapping into the perspectives, challenges and needs of NHS practitioners and leaders across the system over months of research. They then designed a set of accessible, straightforward online resources, courses, and templates that would enable a practitioner to start their own local service transformations. These included everything from practical advice on improving users’ experiences of CYPMH, to teaching methods for service design, to content focused on achieving digital transformation at scale.
The 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. They were designed to evolve over time, and the work is replicable across the NHS, with the potential to touch millions of lives.
By empowering practitioners to utilize these digital tools to ease the burden of care, NHSX plans to create a positive ripple effect across the entire NHS, its partner organizations, and the country at large.