It was nearly 30 years ago that Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, under an earlier name, started providing community, mental health and learning disability services to people across Leeds.
Today, the Trust hosts nearly 40 clinical services and is the main provider of specialist mental health and learning disability services for the 800,000 residents of Leeds. It also provides specialist services across Yorkshire, the North of England and some highly specialised national services.
With excellent feedback from its service users, a substantial research portfolio and a growing number of nominations for Parliamentary Awards, we’ve explored some of its ground-breaking and transformational work for those it serves.
In part one, below, we look at how the City’s first recovery college is helping people recover and stay well, and how a new approach to specialised pharmacy is transforming care in the community.
Learning, living and teaching wellbeing
“Teaching others is often the best way to learn,” says Simon Burton, Development Manager at Leeds Recovery College, as he reflects on its success since opening in 2019.
But what are they teaching and learning about?
The first of its kind in Leeds, the Recovery College offers an innovative approach to helping people help themselves and others recover from or head off mental ill health.
Adopting a model first developed in the US, this is one of around 85 such colleges in the UK. Rather than offering therapy, it uses education as a route to recovery and wellbeing. Open to all adults who live, work or study in Leeds, people can simply enrol free on a course or workshop that interests them.
The College’s ethos encourages people to focus on wellbeing.
It helps them understand what they need to stay well, to spot the triggers of mental ill health and avoid them, to recover and to build resilience.
The approach is very much collaborative not ‘prescribed’. That’s because the College puts equal value on personal and professional perspectives.
“We work hard to create a safe and trusted environment in which people who have experienced their own mental health challenges can speak up, support and learn from each other. As a result, and as people’s confidence grows, they help co-designed and co-facilitate the College courses,” said Simon.
While it’s still early days, the College is already proving successful and the team is growing. Despite having launched just before the challenges the pandemic brought, the Recovery College attracted more than 300 students in its first two terms and continues to offer courses online.
As well as preventing people from needing intensive therapeutic support in the first place, it is proving to be an effective pathway for people coming out of therapeutic services, thus easing the pressure on those services.
As pandemic restrictions ease, the College plans to offer courses in a range of community settings. Simon hopes that it becomes increasingly self-sustaining as more people become involved by helping design and run training.
“It’s wonderful to see the impact this approach is having, helping people to recover, to stay well and to help others along the way. And it’s so important that they help shape and even deliver courses alongside a whole range of professionals from psychologists to pharmacists.
“For those professionals, it’s often the nicest part of their week. It’s something a bit different to their normal roles and there’s always something rich to be learned.”
Pharmacy expertise drives innovative work to tackle health inequalities
Transforming care often means transforming systems, services and cultures. For lead pharmacist Caroline Dada, it’s all part of her day job. Or more accurately, her jobs.
Caroline is Acting Associate Programme Director for the region’s population health management and Lead Pharmacist for Primary Care and Community Services at the Trust. At the heart of what drives her and her specialised pharmacy team’s ground-breaking work is the need to tackle health inequalities.
Caroline leads the only team in the country who are successfully championing this issue from a pharmacy perspective on behalf of people who have serious mental illnesses. They are focusing on addressing the gap in support, which can occur when someone who has been seriously ill in hospital transfers back into the community.
When people have needed specialised care, including complex medications, their discharge from hospital can leave them without that expert input.
“It’s crucial that we understand how to avoid potential problems and provide support to our service users and to their GPs and primary care teams. As the health service increasingly moves more into the community, that specialist expertise must also be there,” said Caroline.
Based on Caroline’s published research, their work to ensure mental health pharmacy expertise builds these bridges and improves care is now an exemplar to other organisations, who are keen to learn from them.
“We know that life expectancy for people with serious mental illness can be up to 20 years shorter than the rest of the population. Our intervention and support plays a key role in helping address this.”
This led Caroline into wider population health management work as part of her new fellowship opportunity with West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership – the regional ‘integrated care partnership’ (ICS). Caroline is now influencing and shaping the regional strategy to reduce health inequalities through specialised pharmacy.
Caroline has launched a regional pharmacy network. Together, they are considering the impact of services on sustainability and the environment within the climate change agenda.
They are also supporting the ICS’s ambitions to reduce the gap in life expectancy experienced by particular disadvantaged communities, such as Gypsy, traveller and transgender communities.
They are developing educational resources, for sharing across the region, to raise awareness of the challenges these communities can face in accessing services.
“Ultimately, services should be equitable and accessible to all, no matter who you are or where you live. There are huge disparities which need addressing. That’s a key priority.”
Dr Sara Munro, Chief Executive of the Trust, said: “I am incredibly proud of all the work we do at LYPFT and delighted we can share some of this through the spotlight series.
“Hopefully these case studies give a sense of the breadth and depth of our work which can be direct with citizens, supporting other colleagues and services, using co production, living our values and not being afraid to innovate with our partners to develop better services now and for the future.”
Dr Liz Mear, Managing Director of Leeds Academic Health Partnership, said: “It’s vital that we ensure mental health care is as important as physical health care. With a growing demand on frontline health and care services, mental health must be front and centre of our partnership work with healthcare researchers and innovators.”
“We are privileged to have such an innovative and forward thinking organisation as one of our core partners and, as these examples show, their work positions our city and indeed our region as leading the way forward for mental health services.”