Resources and Events – Case Studies

Life Rooms: May 2020

About The Project

As a leading mental health trust and one of only seven NHS England Mental Health Global Digital Exemplars, Mersey Care use Elemental’s Core digital social prescribing platform to transform its referrals process through its Pathways Advisors, who are based at The Life Rooms and help people using the service to identify help and support on issues including finding employment, housing, managing money and enrolling on learning for well-being courses.

Background

The Life Rooms is a free service run by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust that brings together over 100 partners across the voluntary, statutory and private sector in order to provide a range of non-clinical opportunities for advice, support, learning and self-development. The Life Rooms also provides a safe and welcoming space to meet others, access opportunities and learn about community resources.

The Life Rooms offers support for those wanting to take the next steps in their life. Services are entirely free and available to all. The Life Rooms are Mersey Care’s state-of-the-art centres for learning for health, social prescribing and community development.  The first flagship centre opened in Walton, in the North of Liverpool, four years ago. Following its success, another four centres have opened across Liverpool and Sefton as well as a bespoke forensic Life Rooms model within Ashworth High Secure Hospital.

The Life Rooms offers opportunities in relation to:

  • Volunteering
  • Employment
  • Learning
  • Social activities
  • Vocational training
  • Pathways Advice
  • Trusted partners
  • Life Rooms Advisory Group (LRAG)
  • Research and Evaluation

And, provides access to a range of community services including:

  • Library services (Walton)
  • Family friendly spaces
  • Meeting spaces for community groups
  • IT suite
  • Café facilities

The Challenge

An extensive listening project throughout Mersey Care highlighted that for many secondary mental health service users it was the social issues such as housing, employment, finance and isolation that seriously impeded recovery and often resulted in a rapid bounce-back into clinical services. Traditional mental health service models can often struggle to respond to the social and practical needs of those accessing the services yet all the evidence points to the fact that social exclusion for people living with mental health challenges is disproportionately high.

It is a reality that we are all on a continuum for mental health and that at different times in our lives we will struggle. Very often those struggles will not immediately meet the criteria for accessing secondary mental health services but if sufficient support is not made available then a descent into crisis and ultimately the need for formal services can quickly arise. This clearly results in bad outcomes for the individuals themselves and also creates a demand for secondary mental health services that can not be sustained indefinitely. We are all too aware that traditional systems of care delivery are struggling to keep pace with the steady increase in mental health need.

Local Geography and socio-economic realities can also dramatically impact people’s health and well-being, yet often formal services struggle to respond to local needs and circumstances and systems of governance and regulation can sometimes dictate a particular way of working that does not flex to the needs of the individual.. For anyone seeking support, it is often the case that they will experience the system as fragmented and complicated to navigate. People are often directed in multiple directions for support and consequently they will fall between the cracks.

A further challenge for Mersey Care came from recognition that there were many VCSE organisations and community based assets working across the region and with great experience in mental and physical health care. However, the lack of an infrastructure to help facilitate the full participation of these organisations in the local health economy was a real problem and often added to the sense of fragmentation of services already identified.

The Solution

After a discovery session with the team at Life Rooms, several key themes emerged:

  • The importance of co-designing the referral pathways
  • The ease of referral making and ability to follow up on the uptake and impact of the referral to understand the difference that its support is making to people’s lives.
  • The ability to provide more support if people needed it and had more complex needs
  • Improving the way that we make referrals to non-medical support
  • Safe and secure self referrals

As a leading mental health trust and one of only seven NHS England Mental Health Global Digital Exemplars, Mersey Care use Elemental’s Core digital social prescribing platform to transform its referrals process through its Pathways Advisors, who are based at The Life Rooms and help people using the service to identify help and support on issues including finding employment, housing, managing money and enrolling on learning for well-being courses.

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, partnered with Elemental to improve the way they managed and delivered social prescriptions within The Life Rooms and to help and support the work being done at Life Rooms services across Liverpool and Sefton.

As a leading mental health trust and one of only seven NHS England Mental Health Global Digital Exemplars, Mersey Care use Elemental’s Core digital social prescribing platform to transform its referrals process through its Pathways Advisors, who are based at The Life Rooms and help people using the service to identify help and support on issues including finding employment, housing, managing money and enrolling on learning for well-being courses.

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, partnered with Elemental to improve the way they managed and delivered social prescriptions within The Life Rooms and to help and support the work being done at Life Rooms services across Liverpool and Sefton.

Using Elemental’s platform means that The Life Rooms team can enable more people to engage with their Pathways Advisory Service so that social and practical support offerings are delivered more effectively and across a broader cross-section of the communities they serve. Elemental has also enabled The Life Rooms to better monitor and track progress which we can then share with the wider Trust so as to better understand the difference that its support is making to people’s lives.

The Outcomes

The benefits for embedding digital social prescribing for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and their teams:

  • Contributing to Public Health Objectives such as mental wellbeing.
  • Enhanced and simplified pathways
  • Building the capacity of the VCSE sector currently 117 providers
  • Clearer and more accurate ways of reporting to stakeholders and commissioners
  • Streamlined partnership working and connectivity with various sectors including health, housing, VCSE and Local Government
  • Easier to onboard new employees and volunteers with Elementals Online Training Academy
  • Contributing to Trust strategy in relation to prevention and integration agendas
  • Support primary care colleagues by offering a single referral point for social and practical need, one that has NHS governance around it
  • Supporting VCSE by linking them into ‘hard to reach’ client groups and providing them building/resource to deliver their interventions
  • Centralised data collection to streamline data and outcome reporting

Quality, recovery and wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do, and we are delighted to be working with Elemental to enhance the way that we deliver support through our Pathways Programme, significantly improving the way that we make referrals to non-medical support and crucially, enabling us to monitor and measure the real impact of these interventions.” Michael Crilly, Director of Social Inclusion at Mersey Care

Benefits of embedding digital social prescribing for patients

Social prescribing is increasingly being seen as the way forward in delivering real and lasting health and wellbeing improvements in communities, and Elemental’s Core platform making it easier to refer, connect, support and measure the impact of referrals.  Mental health services cannot just be about getting people to discharge, they need to be more focussed on helping people get back to a life which they are fulfilled by. A diagnosis of any kind may well be an important part of who we are for the rest of a patient’s life, but it can never and should never, be the whole story.

From April 2018 to March 2019:

  • 1057 new registrations with the service
  • 44% of these new registrations were Mersey Care service users
  • 1891 Pathways Advice contacts took place in this time period
  • 2676 signposts for on-wards support were made
  • 1038 signposts into Life Rooms services (including Life Rooms learning provision, Life Rooms Support Workers)
  • 224 signposts into employment support
  • 60 signposts into volunteering support
  • 1331 signposts for social support (including housing, debt, benefits)

Patient Story

I am probably fairly typical for a father of four, my age, with mental health problems: it seems I have probably had problems with my mental health for years, probably 30 or more, but not acknowledged the problem until it was almost too late. I had my first breakdown about 4 years ago when I found that I couldn’t talk to my family and friends any more.

Having visited my doctor in Hampshire,  I was put on a course of CBT by the local NHS trust. Unfortunately, this seemed to only be a sticking plaster on my mental health and my self-esteem and self-worth continued to deteriorate. A series of difficult personal circumstances at home led to me continuing to struggle significantly until I was rescued from hanging on 2nd January 2018 – I had been suicidal for years, often sitting on the top of cliffs 300 hundred feet high, that I’ve always felt an affinity too. In some way, the miracle of my rescue was an opportunity to hit a reset switch, because not only were others aware of how ill I was but I acknowledged that I wasn’t well. I had such strong feelings of poor self-esteem and self-worth that I had rationalised my suicidal feelings as an acceptable outcome to my life.

It is important to look after one’s own mental health and I hadn’t done so for years, which indirectly led to me having a broken relationship with my wife and children, which of course, exacerbated my problems. Having nowhere left to go and to avoid being homeless, I moved back to my parents home in Liverpool, having lived in the South of England for 16 years. Although this move was something of a last resort, little did I know the benefits it would bring me. 

Once I had returned to Liverpool, I started seeing a Psychotherapist privately and dealt with other professionals. It was one of these professionals who recommended I came to Life Rooms and so it was that I was referred to the Pathways Advisors and met Lydia. 

I was a little apprehensive about coming to Life Rooms, carrying the guilt of my past and feeling weak, I was worried about how I would be welcomed, but Lydia was not only able to put me at ease, she gave me advice about what Life Rooms could offer and how it was a safe space for me, to be me; this mattered as it has been suspected that I may have Asperger’s which had exacerbated my low self-esteem and having met with Sefton Asperger’s (Another Mersey Care body), they pre-assessed that this may be the case and put me forward for a formal assessment.

I am now planning to start a new career in Rail Engineering, as I now appreciate how much care I need to take of my mental health and how physical work improves my mental health status. However, I have started new friendships with people from Life Rooms and I would never want to let that go, because nowhere else have I felt so secure and even when I start my new career and get my own home, I wouldn’t want to lose touch with my friends at Life Rooms.

Coming to Life Rooms, that first time in early May, was one of the most important things I’ve done in my life. It’s one place I can actually attend and feel at ease and relaxed, because I know that the other people around understand what it is like to feel different, to not always be comfortable in your own skin. I can have conversations about issues that people outside of Life Rooms may not understand and it’s comforting and supportive to be able to discuss shared experiences with other service users, both inside the Recovery College classrooms but also outside in informal settings such as the cafe or libraries, over coffee or lunch. The Recovery College at Life Rooms has been fantastic for getting advice on dealing with Confidence and Assertiveness, Managing and Understanding Anxiety and Depression and raising Self-Esteem.

I particularly appreciate that as Service Users we are able to take part in co-production of the programmes available and also take part in Advisory Groups, which helps to make me feel that me and my opinions are valued and of importance, which also helps to raise my self-esteem. I also like the more ‘fun’ activities at The Recovery College, such as Craft, ConfiDance, Drawing and Crochet, because these skills are all useful as distraction techniques at home, when I am struggling. I am also excited by my achievements whilst at Life Rooms, such as learning stand-up and performing a set via the course, ‘Feeling Better Trough Comedy,’ which tested my confidence to stand up in front of people. Despite all the positive things I have already said about Life Rooms, what has mattered to me most and I think makes Life Rooms unique is the access to Pathways Advisors and Support Workers. Having these people available for help, support, and guidance has been superb.

I’ve been able to discuss problems in my own life, receive advice, support and guidance to other services where necessary, without needing an appointment or needing to see a doctor or other professional; this drop-in nature is something I haven’t seen anywhere else I have lived. These relationships with the staff and with other service users have been extremely important to me and because of this I look forward to when I attend Life Rooms and I am not understating the point when I say I owe my life to Life Rooms;  they have helped me with my mental health care in ways that words cannot express.

The Future

Elemental’s Self Refer tool is designed to promote a culture of self care and independence, which can ease pressures on GPs and Link Workers during the current pandemic and beyond. Citizens and patients can soon instantly request support or connect with a Pathways Advisor online via any Life Rooms website.

All referrals made through the website feed through into the Elemental’s Core Platform, meaning The Life Rooms can manage, track, measure and report on the number of referrals received, drill down on reasons for referral, location, and a number of additional data points. 

This also means that The Life Rooms can actively track and measure the impact of your support services and interventions.

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Jennifer and Leeann

Someone’s health and wellbeing can be affected by where they live, what they do for a living, their income or their early childhood background experiences. This in turn leads to some stark, and often avoidable health differences.

We founded Elemental to play an active part in halting health inequalities through the social prescribing movement. Our technology helps communities to be better connected, build resilience and bring real precision to the measurement of the impact of community investment.

We work with organisations that want to continue to invest in their communities but want to be much better at measuring impact and outcomes.

We believe this is a powerful route out of health inequality.

CEO & Co-Founder, Jennifer Neff
COO & Co-Founder, Leeann Monk-Ozgul

Jennifer and Leeann

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