AHSN collaborations around mental health and dementia

In March 2016, the AHSN Network ran its first intra AHSN learning event focussing on Mental Health.

The need for collaboration and knowledge mobilisation was identified by the AHSN Network’s Managing Directors group to:

  • celebrate the breadth of work being undertaken across the country
  • share best practice
  • collaborate with the relevant National Clinical Directors
  • support the adoption of innovations across AHSNs by raising awareness and sharing resources.

This first event on Mental Health included a presentation from Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health, on the most important areas of need for innovation and improvement, as well as a call from patient representatives to celebrate positive practice.

The event also piloted a model consisting of 10 micro presentations from AHSNs combined with an open dialogue space to allow networking and knowledge mobilisation across the AHSN network. See the full  programme here.

Examples of AHSN work showcased

  • The use of checklists to improve the quality of physical health checks for people with serious and enduring mental illness (the Bradford toolkit: Yorkshire and Humber AHSN)
  • A comprehensive new approach to child and adolescent mental health services ( iTHRIVE: UCLP)
  • DeAR GP and House of Memories (two approaches to improve training, screening and empathy in dementia care HIN and North West Coast AHSNs)
  • A high fidelity approach to reduce variation in the treatments and outcomes for anxiety and depression (Oxford)
  • Work to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with psychosis as a young adult (Wessex and Imperial AHSN)
  • An effective whole system approach to prevention of mental health crisis (Raid: West Midlands AHSN)
  • A quality improvement toolkit for Mental Health (MINDSet: West of England AHSN)
  • A person centred and innovative approach to individual placement and support (East Midlands AHSN).

Key learning from the event

  • The many examples of best practice, already developed by AHSNs and their members, which are now ready to be adopted by other AHSNs
  • The plentiful opportunities to collaborate and align innovations, such as the DeAR GP (a tool to identify residents in care homes showing signs of dementia and referring them to a GP for diagnosis) with House of Memories (an app for people who suffer from dementia and their carers)
  • The importance of service push and citizen pull for products, pathways and new ways of working
  • The importance of economic evaluation to aid adoption and spread.

Key follow up actions for Mental Health / Dementia

  • 34 offers of intra AHSN collaboration
  • 27 offers of links to other ASHN projects
  • An offer to compile case studies for wider circulation
  • An offer to compile list of potential collaborations and links
  • Great Manchester volunteered to host a follow up event

Find out more about the various opportunities for collaborations here.

The event was deemed a success with all 15 AHSNs represented and it was agreed the approach would be used as a model for future learning events.

Next steps

  • All Improvement Directors to follow up progress on collaborations expressed at the March event with their own participants
  • ‘Offering’ AHSNs to contact ‘interested’ AHSNs and share details of their innovation and arrange a webex to discuss adoption
  • Schedule a follow-up event (hosted by Greater Manchester AHSN) to include a review of the progress of adoption
  • Agree focus of next learning event and members of the planning group.

The image above is a still taken from a short film about the ‘My House of Memories’ app, designed by and for people living with dementia. Find out more here.

Recent highlights of our work together

The West of England AHSN continues to be recognised for successfully bringing together healthcare, industry and academic partners across the region – but what are we are actually achieving together? Here are a few highlights from the last quarter, October to December 2015…

Patient safety

  • 10,000 people have benefitted from the emergency department safety checklist so far this last year, which has been piloted by University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. We are now supporting four other EDs to implement the checklist: Weston Area Health NHS Trust, North Bristol NHS Trust, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
  • The two Bristol Trusts have successfully converted from the Bristol Early Warning Score to the National Early Warning Score (NEWS).
  • A great example of collaborative working: 80 delegates from across the South of England attended our Mental Health Collaborative learning event in December.
  • The Emergency Laparotomy Collaborative is live including all six acute trusts. This work will benefit 1,000 patients a year in the West of England.
  • To date, 435 staff from community organisations have already received Human Factors training. We are now providing funding to Bath & North East Somerset CCG, Bristol Community Health, Gloucestershire Care Services and North Somerset Community Partnership to enable a further 2,500 staff in community settings to receive training.


  • Connecting Care has been used to review patient records on 110,000 occasions. Gloucestershire CCG has a final business case which will deliver interoperability in 2016/17. Wiltshire and BaNES are enhancing local systems to connect data for patient benefit across care settings.
  • Patients in the West of England are set to benefit from a new NHS Genomic Medicine Centre based in Bristol, which gained approval in December.

Quality improvement

  • 80 GP practices in Gloucestershire are working with us on our Atrial Fibrillation programme. The first 11 practices found 533 high risk patients who may need clinical review.
  • We have trained 46 GPs, 15 nurse practitioners and health care assistants, and 12 pharmacists as part of Don’t Wait to Anticoagulate, with a further pharmacist training session planned.


  • The OpenPrescribing platform been used on 25,000 occasions, with 94,000 page views, and shares on Twitter have reached a potential audience of 46 million people. The concept has now spread to Wales and Scotland.

Join Dementia Research

  • At Christmas the West of England had achieved number one slot for the highest number of local registrations to the Join Dementia Research service in the country.

Diabetes Digital Coach

  • The Diabetes Digital Coach programme, developed by a consortium led by the West of England AHSN, has been selected as an ‘internet of things’ Test Bed to help people with diabetes in the region self-manage their condition.

Supporting innovation

  • We have supported Folium Optics who have been awarded £1 million funding from SBRI Healthcare competition to further developed their ‘smart tag’ which reminds people to take their medication.

Everything we do and achieve is in collaboration with an extensive range of individuals and organisations across the West of England and beyond. Thank you to all our members, partners, public contributors and staff!

West of England tops the charts for Join Dementia Research registrations

A tour bus promoting a service that helps people to take part in dementia research studies proved such a hit with shoppers in the West of England before Christmas that the region has now taken the number one slot for the highest number of local registrations to the service in the country.

‘Join Dementia Research’ allows people with and without dementia to register their interest in dementia research, so they can be contacted about relevant research studies.

Backed by the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN): West of England and local partners, the bus visited four locations in Stroud, Weston-super-Mare, Swindon and Bristol.

The aim of taking the tour bus on the road was to reach 1,000 local registrations to ‘Join Dementia Research’ by Christmas. That target was smashed, with around 500 registrations added since the week’s tour and the local total now standing at 1,250, making the West the leading region nationwide for people signing up to the service, which currently has almost 15,000 people registered nationwide.

Vital studies into early diagnosis, prevention and new treatments for dementia are making progress but more volunteers, with dementia and people without the condition, are needed.

The bus was supported by local NHS Trusts, including the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Volunteer champions Tony Hall, chairman of the Bristol Dementia Action Alliance and also a carer to his wife who has dementia, and Hilary Doxford, who has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, also helped out.

Hilary said: “As a person living with a dementia diagnosis I was uplifted by the number of people stopping to talk to us, hearing and sharing our stories and for them to then sign up to `Join dementia research. Anything that can help researchers complete their research sooner has to be good news for people with dementia, and the register does just that.”

Deborah Evans, Managing Director of the West of England AHSN, also spent time helping out when the bus visited Bristol and did a quick interview with Made In Bristol TV.

The tour was masterminded by Charlie Procter, NIHR Clinical Research Network: West of England and Jane Makin, Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. Charlie said: “There was an amazing response from local people, whatever the weather in December. So many people we spoke to had been touched in one way or another by dementia that they were really keen to help out and register.

“Dementia research is critically important. It can help people living with the condition now, as well as helping to prevent people from developing dementia in the future.
“There are currently 10 dementia research studies being conducted in the West of England and this boost to local registrations will make it easier for these studies to recruit participants. We are always grateful to patients, care givers and healthy members of the public who volunteer to take part in these studies so that we can improve the quality of life of people diagnosed with this condition and their families.”

Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said: “Join Dementia Research is a great opportunity for people to play a role in pioneering research to defeat dementia. It’s fantastic to see how supportive people in the West have been of Join Dementia Research and how willing they are to give their time to volunteer for studies.
“We hope that people in the region will continue to sign up to volunteer, and spread the word to their friends and family too. Dementia is a heart-breaking condition but research can make progress for everyone affected.”

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “The tour bus is a fantastic way of enabling people to find out more about how they can get involved in dementia research. We are delighted that more people are being given the opportunity to take part in vital research. Not only is it essential for us to make progress towards new treatments and better care, but it could also empower people to learn more about their condition and benefit from additional support.”

Register or find out more about Join Dementia Research here.  Alternatively, pick up a leaflet and registration form in more than 130 libraries throughout the West of England.