The success of a pilot scheme between the Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) and University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) OPAL+, designed to help patients to avoid unnecessary hospital admission, is being celebrated by all those involved with plans to roll out the approach early 2022.

Launched at Reservoir Court in Erdington in early September, the trial has helped more patients in the unit to avoid unnecessary hospital admission and recover more quickly at the Erdington site. The pilot was supported by the appointment of Vanessa Scott to the role of Advanced Clinical Practitioner. Vanessa has strengthened the clinical service provision at the inpatient unit to support mental health colleagues and OPAL+ in keeping residents in their own surroundings at Reservoir Court.

Since 27th September 2021, Reservoir Court colleagues who are unsure whether a person needs to be taken to the Emergency Department have been using the OPAL+ service to carry out an initial triage. Often carers and family members who are with the patient contribute to the assessment too.

Over a four-week period the OPAL+ team received eight calls from Reservoir Court. Of these, seven people remained at Reservoir Court and received the appropriate care they needed.

Vanessa Scott said: “We know that people recover better in familiar surroundings and often if somebody experiencing mental health issues is admitted unnecessarily to hospital, these issues can be exacerbated just adding to the problem.

“It has been a huge privilege to work on such an innovative approach and to see first-hand the difference it makes to the people we are caring for. The attitude of the OPAL+ team is just simply superb, even at a time when the health and social care system is under such intense pressure from every direction. From all of us at Reservoir Court, thank you, thank you , thank you.”

In a bid to further strengthen ties with the OPAL service, work is underway between the BSMHFT and OPAL to improve pathways between the two services, including how to reduce the time it takes for referrals and the type of patients that can be referred. This work is in its infancy having only been launched two weeks ago.

Leona Tasab, Nurse Consultant for Physical Health at the BSMHFT and liaison link with OPAL+ said: “The Reservoir Court trial is a great example of closer collaboration with our healthcare colleagues across Birmingham. Everybody involved in strengthening these links between mental health services and OPAL+ has shown an open-door ethos which has been fantastic. We know that our patients may face added difficulties when attending the Emergency Department. It may exacerbate confusion, increase anxiety and cause agitation and behaviours that challenge.

Service Users can find it difficult being in a new environment or struggle to provide a comprehensive history. If a clinical management plan can be agreed safely and comprehensively with support from OPAL+ it will reap great benefits for our service users. In addition to the benefit to service users, the advantage of using finite resources appropriately has never been more urgent since the advent of the pandemic.

“We are currently working on a full experience and evaluation of the pilot scheme which includes the impact on the OPAL+ service, Vanessa in her role as ACP and our colleagues on site.

“BSMHFT has more than 50 sites so before rolling it out further, we need to ensure that this approach will be sustainable city-wide for  BSMHFT and OPAL+.

We are also excited about the next steps with OPAL and if our OPAL+ collaboration results are anything to go by, know that we will be sharing positive news very soon.”

BSMHFT and UHB are two key partners of the Early Intervention (EI) programme.  EI goals are to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and premature admissions to long-term residential care, reduce delays in discharge from hospital and help people to remain as independent as possible in their own home.