Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust has launched a new online one-stop shop to help children and young people with mental health issues across Liverpool and Sefton.

The initiative, which has involved Ander Hey working in collaboration with Healthcare Communications and Mindwave Ventures, will offer a single point of access for children who need support and resources for managing their mental health. The referral form links together a range of mental health services in the area that are working in partnership and will replace the current lengthy processes.

The new platform, available via Liverpool Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Sefton CAMHS, has been rolled out across 13 regional organisations and three Integrated Care Systems (ICS).

Emma Hughes, deputy director of innovation, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “By consolidating our mental health support onto one platform, with a single point of access, we are pleased to have been able to streamline access to our services and minimise the stress faced by children, young people and their families during a time of crisis.”

She continued: “We can now make better use of our resources, while improving the quality of support we provide through efficient referral processes, and access to apps, information and videos at the point of referral. We are now looking at ways of expanding our service offering across the entire pathway.”

The new platform is expected to save over 1,600 staffing hours per year and minimise potential errors in referrals. With two different electronic patient records being used in the region, the new platform will upload referrals to the appropriate organisation and system. If referrals need to be transferred, an automated process is used.

Kenny Bloxham, managing director, Healthcare Communications, said: “We are proud to be supporting Alder Hey to deliver first-class mental health referral platform for children and young people in Liverpool and Sefton.

“Over the past few years, the number of people seeking mental health has grown significantly, with the pandemic highlighting the need for more innovative ways to access care. Hopefully, this project serves as an example for other care providers, prompting a change in the way mental health services are delivered on a national scale.”

In 2020 Alder Hey made a successful bid to NHSX, which has allowed the trust to take advantage of an open-innovation framework and user-centred design processes.

Alder Hey worked with Mindwave Ventures to apply a user-centred design philosophy so that the platform is easily adaptable and can adapt to the needs of its users. Its resource section includes age-appropriate video content and reading materials and has been clinically validated through ORCHA.

Katy Edwards, director of operations, Mindwave Ventures, said: “The success of the rollout highlights the importance of involving end-users — in this case, children, young people and clinicians — in the development stages of digital transformation initiatives, and the importance of working together to identify challenges, conflicting priorities and opportunities.”

The next phase of the project will see Healthcare Communications develop an eating disorder speciality service. This will allow patients to rebook appointments, saving the trust admin time and helping to minimise the number of patients who fail to attend booked appointments.

Alder Hey is now in talks with a number of trusts and ICSs who are considering implementing a similar approach.

Earlier this month the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) received funding of £1.8m to explore the regulation of digital mental health tools.