Impact review 2020-21: supporting mental health services

photo of Brenda McHugh

Hearing typically hard-to-engage young people describe themselves as champions, rather than failures, as they complete the SmartGym programme is very exciting and very moving.

Brenda McHugh Consultant Psychotherapist, Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families


young people had access to mental health resilience tools through our Future Challenges programme


students accessed the SmartGym CardioWall®️ Resilience programme, including peer support trainers


different stakeholder groups co-designed the MiHUB platform, including innovators, young people, school staff, education specialists, counsellors and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

Supporting mental health resilience in the young

Through our Future Challenges programme, we have run two projects in the last year to support young people’s mental health resilience: ‘MiHUB’ and ‘SmartGym Gloucestershire’.

SmartGym Gloucestershire

This project at Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre in Gloucestershire is assessing the value of combining physical and cognitive exercises to build young people’s mental resilience.

Rugged Interactive, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families are working together to evaluate the SmartGym Resilience Programme with a selected cohort of students.

The programme combines physical and cognitive activities, gamification of physical activities (using game elements to solve problems and increase engagement) and a tailored support tool to embed and reinforce users’ personal development.

The cognitive activity elements were created by the Anna Freud Centre and the gamified physical activities use Rugged Interactive’s CardioWall® technology.

“When we were introduced to the AHSN’s Future Challenges initiative, it became very clear, very quickly, that our partnership could be a great foundation for launching a new programme to help young people build invaluable mental health resilience,” explains Brenda McHugh from the Anna Freud Centre.

“Hearing typically hard-to-engage young people describe themselves as champions, rather than failures, as they complete the SmartGym programme is very exciting and very moving.”

Evaluation of the project is underway and will be published in the coming weeks.


MiHUB is an innovative technology-based project that aims to support young people’s wellbeing and resilience.

We have brought together Wiltshire Council and the Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCG with ProReal to explore use of virtual reality technology to supplement current mental health approaches.

Royal Wootton Bassett Academy in Wiltshire is trialling MIHUB with a range of students from years seven, eight and nine.

Students use ProReal’s immersive, avatar-based virtual world platform. This offers them a choice of specific situations or problems they might be finding challenging. They are then guided to build visual representations of how they, and others, see the world. The technology helps them to describe their thoughts and feelings as well as take other perspectives, and this can help with different ‘real world’ decisions and choices.

The project is currently being independently evaluated and the report will be published shortly.

Read more about these Future Challenges

Thank you to SharED and to the West of England AHSN and particularly to Jo (SharED Coach), who’s been there at the end of the line to support our every query and when we’ve come up against a challenge. It’s made a huge difference and so I already feel that patients have benefitted massively and we really want to carry on.

Dr Sarah Harper Clinical Lead, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


of hospital trusts in the West of England are involved in our SHarED project


staff have received training to support high impact users of emergency departments


high impact users have been supported to date

SHarED: Supporting high impact users in emergency departments

Our SharED (Supporting High impact users in Emergency Departments) project aims to improve outcomes for the most frequent users of EDs and reduce their attendance rates.

High impact users of EDs suffer some of the most severe health inequalities in the UK. They experience exceptionally high rates of mental health problems, learning disability, homelessness, substance misuse, domestic abuse, safeguarding concerns and are often from an ethnic minority background. They often attend the ED as they have nowhere else to go.

The SharED approach was developed at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, where it has been running for five years. The project has had great success in reducing attendances to the ED, as well as supporting users to seek healthcare and support in a more appropriate way.

Based on this success, we selected it for adoption and spread across the West of England as part of our Evidence into Practice Challenge. All five hospital trusts are engaged in this work. Over 200 ED staff have received training and 127 high impact users have been supported to date.

Read more about SHarED


AHSNs are members of our South of England Mental Health Collaborative


mental health trusts are members of the collaborative

South of England Mental Health Collaborative

We established the South of England Mental Health Collaborative in partnership with South West AHSN, and its membership now includes Kent Surrey Sussex, Wessex and Oxford AHSNs, along with 16 mental health trusts.

The collaborative aims to improve the quality and safety of services for people with mental health conditions through the use of quality improvement methodology.

The collaborative also now acts as the regional delivery vehicle for the Mental Health Safety Improvement Programme, which is commissioned by NHS England and delivered by each of England’s 15 AHSNs. The main ambitions of this programme are around reducing restrictive practice, suicide or self-harm and increasing sexual safety.

Find out more about the Mental Health Collaborative


services in the West are being supported to implement QbTest to aid diagnosis of ADHD

Focus ADHD

Diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can take significant time and resources, with an average 18 month wait for accurate diagnosis.

Along with other AHSNs across the country, we are working to implement objective testing using the QbTest tool to support diagnosis and reduce waiting times through our Focus ADHD project.

We are currently supporting seven children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or community paediatric services in the West to implement QbTest.

Read more about Focus ADHD


mental health trusts in the West are being supported to adopt the FREED model to help young people with eating disorders

Early intervention for eating disorders

First-episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders (also referred to as FREED) is an innovative, evidence-based, specialist care package for 16 to 25-year-olds with a first-episode eating disorder of less than three years in duration.

We are supporting Avon & Wiltshire Partnership Mental Health NHS Trust and Gloucestershire Health and Care Services NHS Foundation Trust to introduce the FREED model. Gloucestershire Health and Care have been successful in their application for £35,000 funding for a FREED champion for 2021-22. Avon & Wiltshire Partnership will receive STP transformation funding from April 2022, and we are funding a FREED champion until then.

Read more about early intervention for eating disorders

This was a breath of fresh air, people wanting to engage, and talk about common situations, and positive ways to reduce risk and stress in the future. I have not really been asked how I was coping thorough this pandemic, so was initially difficult to answer.

Training delegate


of care homes managers said our training was helping them to support their staff’s wellbeing

Free mental health awareness training for care home managers

During January and February 2021, we trained 48 care home managers in mental health awareness.

The free training was delivered virtually by Bristol Mind. 94% of care homes managers who completed our post-training survey said it was helpful in supporting them to address their biggest concern around their staff’s wellbeing. Further training is being organised for later this year.

Find out more about our mental health awareness training