Innovation in healthcare: Mental health transformation with Lambeth's Living Well Collaborative

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Joseph Harrington


As we have heard this week from others on the Innovation Unit blog, mental health is something that has a broad and often great impact on people’s lives. However, for years mental health services have been delivered through a medicalised model of support, where people are seen as patients and conditions and their relating ‘remedies’ are examined in isolation, rather than taking account of the wider impacts and opportunities within an individual’s life. Although there is vast evidence to support the need to ensure holistic forms of support when working with those who have mental health challenges, this often blinkered view of people is deeply engrained within the organisations and support offered.

For a few months now, we have been working with Lambeth PCT to help them to radically transform the model of support available to those with mental health challenges, to move away from the traditional model of a patient-service relationship to a model built by and from the core principles of co-production.

Transformation like this is not easy and often requires new and innovative ways of working to drive the process. Lambeth began their journey by taking some simple but effective steps. First they created a collaborative platform for a diverse set of organisations and people to work together. This is called the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative and it’s made up from the Council, the PCT, Voluntary and Charity sector organisations, GPs, a mental health foundation and, importantly, people who use services and their carers.  Quite simply, this group meets on Thursday mornings for breakfast provided by one of the Collaborative’s member organisations – a charity that fittingly works with people with mental health challenges and trains them in hospitality and cookery. Here, over sausages, beans and toast, they have a chance to bring to the group both the strategic and tactical challenges of delivering such transformational work. It’s all about the opportunity for open and honest dialogue and is the key to the successes that Lambeth has achieved so far. It maintains the programme’s momentum across all partners and the diverse nature of the Collaborative’s make-up allows for disruptive challenges to the ‘norm’ and the current ways of working, which often in transformation processes are all too easy to slip back into.

Furthermore, the Collaborative have stuck hard to their beliefs in co-production and regularly run large events with up to 150 participants, ranging from people who use services, to commissioners.  These events are not simply about engagement or consultation, but instead about an opportunity to build on the vision for mental health in Lambeth and become actively involved in delivering the transformation. The last event in September was designed and facilitated by the Innovation Unit. We ran a number of sessions to develop and prototype new service offers and worked with trained actors to role-play interactions - creating short films to capture and describe the key challenges and opportunities presented. We have learnt that these kinds of activities, although certainly not traditional planning methods are key to ensuring that diverse groups can work together productively and effectively.

Lambeth believe strongly that co-produced services are the only way to meet the needs of people with mental health challenges. Such a shift in commissioning is not an easy thing to do, but Lambeth have taken a ‘learning by doing’ approach - taking the principles of co-production and applying them early on within their transformation programme. This has created a strong and effective community around the Collaborative, which has enabled them to quickly build and test new services and to already see and assess the impact of these radical changes in people’s lives.

Lambeth are one of the Nesta People Powered Health Pilots and you can keep up to date with them on the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative blog.

Part of our week-long series on Mental Health in Public Services to mark World Mental Health Day.


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