hospitalFour mental health trusts in the West Midlands have come together in a new healthcare alliance to transform the way acute mental health services are provided. 

The Mental Health Alliance for Excellence, Resilience, Innovation and Training (MERIT), which comprises Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust and Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, has been successful in a joint bid to be part of the latest wave of NHS England’s New Care Models Vanguard programme. The purpose of this programme is to develop new options for acute care collaboration to put the NHS Five Year Forward View into action.

The alliance will focus on three priority areas where the greatest challenges for urban mental health services exist and where it can rapidly realise quality and efficiency benefits, spread best practice and reduce variations in cost and quality through integration across current geographical and organisational boundaries. These areas are; seven day working in acute services, crisis care and the reduction of risk, and promoting a recovery culture. 

Some of the specific transformations MERIT will work to achieve are:

Consistency in services seven days a week and in pathways, so services fit people’s lives

Less variation in services 

Faster decision making, such as discharges seven days a week and a co-ordinated emergency response

A shared care plan, meaning one assessment and service users only having to tell their story once

More likelihood of staying closer to home if a bed isn’t available in the immediate area

Less unnecessary time spent in A&E or police cells

More support for recovery in the community and less chance of a relapse or return to secondary care services

Wider access to clinical trials, leading to improved treatments, models and outcomes

Greater participation in our services across all communities. 

Key to achieving this at scale and pace will be shared models for support services, including research and innovation, staffing, workforce planning, information technology, equality and diversity and quality governance.

Each trust will retain its own sovereignty and continue to be accountable for its own service delivery to suit the local population, but there will be common frameworks, service models, functions, rotas, system and work plans. These will help achieve economies of scale, maintain the clinical and financial viability of local services and improve outcomes for the whole population of the West Midlands conurbation, in line with the vision of the new West Midlands Combined Authority and its proposed West Midlands Mental Health Commission.

In a joint statement, chief executives of the four trusts said: “Through working with our staff, service users and local partners across the West Midlands to develop joint clinical and business models, we will deliver clear and measurable quality improvements for our local populations. Our alliance will drive the benefits of working collaboratively across our organisational boundaries, whilst retaining localism.  

“We recognise that only by coming together can we effect the large-scale transformational change needed to achieve improved productivity, cost savings and long-term viability in acute services, and at the same time maintain the highest quality care for our service users and their carers. Whilst retaining local autonomy, we will work together to solve current efficiency, workforce, equality and policy implementation challenges, sharing best practice and creating models that will be replicable across the NHS to create long term sustainable specialist mental health services.”