Working together to improve babies’ lives

This week (6-10 June 2016) is the UK’s inaugural Infant Mental Health awareness week: #IMHAW16.

Did you know that babies’ brains develop rapidly after they are born? In the first critical 1,001 days of life, the environment and the caring relationships surrounding the baby help to build the brain, by creating new neural pathways.

A baby forms approximately 700 new neural connections per second in the first years of life. If these connections are used repeatedly they become strong ‘traits’, whereas the ones that are rarely used fade away.

Parents and carers can help to positively support their baby’s mental health by connecting with them and mirroring social and emotional behaviours. A positive mental health infancy has been shown to have a long term positive impact   on a person’s health, wealth, educational attainment and relationships.

There is a growing body of science that supports the power of positively connecting with babies. If you want to know more about how brains are built then check out the NSPCC video Brain Builders or watch this video from Zero to Three.

Ann Remmers (Patient Safety Programme Director) and Anna Burhouse (Director of Quality) both work at the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) but also have careers working with infants and their parent/carers.

Ann is a midwife and leads the South West Maternity and Children’s Strategic Clinical Network. Anna is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and supervises the Infant Mental Health Service in Gloucestershire. Ann and Anna are both passionate about improving perinatal and infant mental health.

Happily their clinical knowledge about infants is also be used to good effect when running patient safety and quality improvement programmes in the AHSN.

So far the West of England AHSN has helped to:

  • Run quality improvement masterclasses on perinatal and infant mental health (see our latest annual report).
  • Coordinate a quality improvement programme across five NHS Trusts to help prevent Cerebral Palsy in preterm labour.
  • Co-create a mental health quality improvement toolkit called MINDSet with a section devoted to how to improve perinatal mental health care.
  • Develop an innovative citizen led design process which has led to a prototype baby seat that can be fastened with one hand, making it easier for parents with disabilities or those with more than one child.

National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards 2016

The West of England AHSN is pleased to be supporting the MINDset Quality Improvement Award as part of the National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards 2016.

Celebrating teams, individuals and services in 15 different categories, you have until Sunday 22 May to submit your nominations.

The MINDset Quality Improvement Award is for individuals, teams, organisations or health or social care systems that have used a robust quality improvement methodology to make a sustainable difference to mental health outcomes.

Find out more and submit your nominations at

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.

Mental Health Quality and Patient Safety Improvement Collaborative

The ninth learning session for the South of England Mental Health Quality and Patient Safety Improvement Collaborative took place in March in Bristol. The event saw 73 delegates from across the member organisations come together.

The two day learning session was a mixture of plenary presentations, world cafes, and active participation sessions on the implementation of quality improvement methodology and quality improvement workshops. Participants had the chance to network, share and explore in more detail any subjects that had been raised over the two days.

The session resulted in a total of 143 innovations and the aim is now for delegates to take these innovations back to their provider organisations to test, adapt or abandon.

The learning session focused on:

  • Building capability in quality improvement using the 3Ls framework (learning, living, leading)
  • Coaching improvements in workstream specific subjects
  • Sharing innovations and difficulties amongst peers
  • Setting up co-production workshops
  • Learning about a ‘continuous learning system’
  • Networking
  • Commencing the region-wide approach to reduction of violence and aggression.

The plan for the Collaborative’s year ahead was shared with the members, and additional support was agreed, consisting of:

  • Development sessions for programme managers
  • Quality improvement webinars
  • Workstream specific coaching clinics
  • Site visits from faculty members for in-action coaching
  • Life system migration support
  • Co-production coaching.

The next learning session is planned for 5 and 6 July 2016 in Reading. One of the main areas of focus for this next event will be the use of measurement in quality improvement work.

For more information, contact Heather Pritchard, Programme Lead for the South of England Mental Health Quality and Patient Safety Improvement Collaborative at

Intra-AHSN learning event on mental health

The improvement directors from the 15 AHSNs across England are looking forward to hosting the first intra-AHSN learning event on Mental Health in London on Wednesday 2 March.

This will be a unique opportunity to hear about the innovative work that AHSNs are supporting in the field of mental health.

The day will allow AHSNs to showcase their work, share best practice and learning points, form natural collaborations and have time to discuss key national next steps with Dr Geraldine Strathdee NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health and patient representatives from Positive Practice in Mental Health.

Anna Burhouse, Director of Quality for the West of England AHSN, worked with the northwest Coast and West Midland AHSNs to design the format of the event.

The West of England AHSN will be presenting their work on a new national quality improvement toolkit for mental health, which celebrates best practice, mobilises knowledge and shares tools and resources for change. This work is a collaboration with many mental health trusts, NHS England, Monitor, ImROC and NHS Confederation. It will be launched in the spring and fellow AHSNs will have sneak preview of it at the March learning event.

Anna said: “As a passionate mental health clinician I believe we have to innovate and improve mental healthcare to make it more person-centred and increasingly focused on how to support important life outcomes for people, as well as the reduction of their symptoms.

“We need new ways of designing and delivering systems that are preventative, effective and recovery orientated. Increasingly, we need to ensure the expertise of people with lived experience of mental illness comes together with academics, health and social care professionals and business to generate fresh ideas and thinking.

“Choosing mental health to be the subject of the first intra-AHSN learning event demonstrates the AHSN’s commitment to this process and their positive role as catalysts for change.”

To see more of the quality improvement work Anna helps to support as a mental health clinician alongside her role as Director of Quality for the West of England AHSN, watch the Health Foundation’s Power of People film, The Recovery College.