5 May – Mental Health Network webinar – governance during the COVID-19 pandemic

05 May 2022

This week’s session opened in conversation with Michael Crilly, Director of Social Inclusion & Participation at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, who shared details of the Life Rooms mental health initiative. Life Rooms is Mersey Care’s social model of health launched six years ago.

Michael said there was a sense of people remaining dependent on the organisation, despite having moved past clinical services, so the team conducted a listening exercise with service users to explore why. It became clear that the social determinants of health impeded recovery and resulted in people routinely bouncing back.

When people move beyond clinical services, the circumstances in which they were living before admission hadn’t changed. The organisation started to bring together non-clinical, socially and pastorally focused

interventions, such as a recovery college, supported employment services, cultural and creative partnership working and teams focusing on ethnic minority asylum seeking mental health. Often, small teams and resources don’t have a supportive infrastructure, despite their impactful role. Michael spoke of the need to be located within the community and the team made contact with city library services, following service users’ fears regarding the potential closure of libraries.

The trust acquired a library and worked with service users to redesign the environment to ensure the services provided addressed the needs identified, including housing, debt, benefit and education. The initiative was popular with both service users and the general population in the area. Services were open to any members of the public. Following the success, two further buildings were opened, and Life Rooms is now a fully commissioned service that sits separately from clinical operating services. Following commission from Public Health, reach has been expanded into eight further libraries and 22 children’s centres.

Michael said that there had been governance issues in accessing clinical data for evaluation purposes. Increasingly, people are accessing the services independently. The national push around social prescribing has put primary care network link workers into GP surgeries, but they have neither the time nor resource to create

the wellbeing offer. Life rooms, as a physical service, together with its digital platform, can create the overarching structure that is needed to help measure impact.

Overheard during the webinar:

“Mersey Care’s work shows how the NHS can be an anchor institution, in providing work, hope and reducing health inequalities. A current burning bridge is growing demand. It may be difficult to develop metrics, but there is knowledge that long term prevention works.”

“We’re working with complicated external groups, including the voluntary sector, who feel incredibly threatened, and exploring learning around how to draw such groups in. There are ways of working together that may not be familiar to NHS or local government, but that sit in the location of need. It doesn’t matter so much as to who gets the credit, only that it is being done.”

These meetings are by invitation only. For further details, visit our events page.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions about these webinars, please contact: events@good-governance.org.uk