A rural northern county is benefiting from an online psychological family therapy service for patients with severe mental illness and their families.
In Lincolnshire, a project has gone live that allows the patient, clinicians and other family members to engage in family intervention via video link, regardless of geographical location.
Family intervention is a form of psychological therapy, based on bringing the whole family together to improve treatment outcomes for patients diagnosed with psychosis.
The 18-month scheme is run by digital healthcare company, Healios, and Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. It is being supported and partially funded by the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network (EMAHSN), which contributed about £100,000.
Nick Hamilton, project manager at EMAHSN, said that in a rural county like Lincolnshire, there are lots of “logistical difficulties” when delivering a course of therapy that involves multiple people in one location.
With this project, each participant has a video pane on the screen and all involved see the Healios clinician who identifies the needs and challenges within the family. He or she also ensures the clinical standards are performed as they would be face-to-face.
The service can be accessed via smart phone, tablet or computer.
So far, ten patients and families have been referred to Healios. The target is 50 by the end of the first 12 months, with the technology being used for ten to 12 sessions.
Antony Jackson, business manager for Lincolnshire Partnership’s adult community mental health service, said this service will also help deliver on the national guidelines for the mental health services.
“The access and waiting time standards require someone with first episode psychosis and their family to begin treatment with a care package that meets government clinical guidelines within two weeks of referral.”
Hamilton said there was strong evidence in support of family intervention in NICE clinical guidance. A 2014 NICE briefing paper found family intervention as “having the most robust evidence for relapse prevention of any treatment option”.
This same paper also stated that of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, less than 3% were offered family interventions.
Richard Andrews, founder and chairman of Healios, said the company was created to fill a “critical gap for how the family can come together to support a loved one”. The service makes the therapy “really convenient and flexible for the family”, said Andrews, overcoming geographical difficulties.
NHS England announced earlier this month that six to eight digital mental health innovators will share in a £400,000 fund to speed up the adoption of their products by the health service.
The Lincolnshire project is not part of the long-running NHS programme, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, which generally targets mild to moderate mental health conditions.
Digital Health Intelligence: holds information on the clinical systems installed at trusts across the UK and uses this to calculate a Clinical Digital Maturity Index score. Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has a has CDMI score of 53 and a ranking of 44/56. (subscription / log-in required).