Following the Government’s recent NHS funding commitment, many of us in mental health professions are considering the priorities we should be working to over the next ten years.

Conversations are ongoing in efforts to make sure we can provide the right care for everyone who needs it.

One of the areas generating a lot of discussion is long-term conditions (LTC) and the need to build better services to support those with enduring mental illnesses.

Improving access and outcomes for this cohort of people is imperative: there are 15 million people with LTCs in this country and £7 in every £10 of the total health and care expenditure is spent on support and treatment.

Thinking digitally

We have been doing our own thinking in relation to these needs and as always, we started with thinking digitally.

A discussion led by Dr Arthur Evans on the many therapeutic approaches there are to support people with longer term conditions inspired our thinking about what we could bring to the table.

What could XenZone’s offer be? How could we make a difference?

Learning from Dr Arthur Evans

Dr Arthur Evans was the commissioner for mental health services in Philadelphia for twelve years, and with his colleagues, transformed the way the city thought about service delivery and the vehicles needed to deliver it.

He funded community sports and art programmes, invested in mental health awareness courses not just for police and fire personnel but community organisations, churches and faith groups and members of the public too. He also invested in different kinds of evidenced-based therapeutic approaches.

He took the view that the underlying problem for many of those who use mental health services as adults, is undiagnosed trauma, often of the developmental kind. He was critical of the message that CBT was the answer to all psychological pain, and sceptical that the ‘black box’ whereby patients went in at one end for six weeks of therapy to be ‘fixed’ and then spat out the other end, was truthful or realistic.

Digital communities

We know from our experience of Kooth, that digital communities can play a role in helping people get and stay well. We think that the prospect of flexible online therapeutic communities, working in conjunction with local organisations on the ground has huge potential.

A flexible programme would allow people with enduring mental illness to have ongoing online support via self-help materials and interactive gamification, contact with their peers and access to our team of mental health professionals including psychotherapists.

Flexible, joined-up support

We work in a joined-up way with the system and therefore people would also have the prospect of accessing intermittent specialist face-to-face support as needed. This level of flexibility in their treatment plan would represent a transformational approach, and making digital the key component allows us to deliver this at scale.

An accessible drop-in service is particularly important for those with recurring problems which are often rooted in developmental or trauma disorders, and we think it stands to make a big impact to outcomes.

For this reason, attention to those suffering with LTCs should be a central tenet of the NHS’s ten-year plan, with a new digitally-inspired approach offering the accessibility and flexibility needed, making better care a reality.

Elaine Bousfield, founder and chair, XenZone