Skip to main content

Phase one of mental health discovery project completed

13th November 2023

The need for an all-Wales electronic record to help improve mental health planning and provision in Wales has been identified following phase one of a discovery project by DHCW.

The project aims to identify areas where digital, data and technology can add value to mental health services. It follows on from DHCW’s work to develop a national mental health dataset in line with Welsh Government’s Together for Mental Health Strategy.

DHCW worked closely with those delivering mental health services in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg region for phase one of the project. This includes Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, Local Authorities and Primary Care.

Elaine Lorton, Service Director for Mental Health at Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB, said:

“As a health board, CTM has played a key role in this scoping work with DCHW and other partners, and it has given us the opportunity to really help shape future thinking and decision making in this important area of practice.

“We know that moving to a safe, better aligned digital system will make a real difference to mental health service users in our communities. We have welcomed the opportunity to think more broadly across a range of solutions, and look forward realising the outcomes for the benefit of patients, their carers, our partners and workforce.”  

Sam Hall, Director of Primary, Community and Mental Health Digital Services at DHCW, said:

“Digital and data are fundamental to the delivery of health and care across Wales. Joined up information, available to the right people, at the right time, in the right way helps us deliver better mental health services in a safe and effective way.  Being part of this work with Cwm Taf Morgannwg has been inspiring, and we now understand so much more about the digital and data needs of people giving and receiving care.”

Several common barriers to accessing and sharing data were identified. Currently most mental health data is still stored in paper format. Any digital data collected is not easily shareable across healthcare settings and geographic borders. This means patients are currently having to repeat their often-traumatic stories multiple times when accessing different mental health services.

Mental health practitioners currently find it challenging to make informed decisions due to a lack of up-to-date data and a lack of information on the current demand and capacity in the system.

Mental health practitioners felt they do not have access to all available information on a patient, including who is involved in providing a particular patient’s care. This is due to patients accessing care from multiple services both inside and outside of the NHS and their data not following them from one service to the next.

Practitioners also have to log onto multiple systems to access information on a patient, or request paper copies of notes.

The consistent feedback from mental health practitioners during phase one of the discovery work identified the need for an all-Wales electronic record. DHCW is the only health organisation in Wales with the legal right to hold Wales-wide patient level data and would play a key role in developing a digital solution to collect and share data on a need-to-know basis.

Other opportunities to improve the provision of mental health services were also identified during the discovery work. A particular focus is the importance of joined up care, collaboration and integration across sectors.

A person-centred approach to care would empower individuals to take an effective role in their own care planning and provision. Early intervention and prevention are also key to reducing problems arising or getting any worse.

There are currently multiple different routes for citizens to accessing mental health services which can be overwhelming. There is still perceived to be a stigma around mental health, making some people resistant to seeking support.

The discovery work highlighted the importance of tailoring support to an individual’s needs. For example, medication is not always an effective solution and sometimes patients just need to somebody to talk to.

Phase two of the discovery work will see the findings from phase one shared with all regions to build a Wales-wide picture of the changes needed. National bodies such as Improvement Cymru, the NHS Wales Executive and other specialised services will also be involved.

Importantly, citizens and service users across Wales will be asked to share their experiences of accessing mental health services. Following phase two, the aim is to develop an outline business case for a digital tool developed by DHCW that works to address the issues identified.