18 March 2021

Community mental health care in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes is set to be radically transformed thanks to a major cash boost announced by NHS England. 

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System (BLMK ICS) has been awarded £1.8m in NHS funding for the first year of a three-year community mental health transformation project.

In line with the NHS Long Term Plan, the aim is to dissolve the boundaries between primary care, secondary mental health care and social care and the voluntary sector, across the country.

The funding will enable East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL), the area’s two NHS mental health providers, to provide new models of care that ensure people with severe mental illness can access better care closer to home.

The two Trusts will work with local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and primary care to transform the way care is delivered through new multidisciplinary, multi-agency mental health teams.

The new teams will include psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, peer support workers and community connectors working in partnership with primary care clinicians, social prescribers, clinical pharmacists and community health services to ensure that people’s care is holistically managed. 

These teams will provide wraparound support for people with varying levels of need, including those with longer-term and complex requirements.

Care planning will be tailored to meet the needs of local populations. 

The transformation will truly integrate primary and secondary care to enable GPs and specialist mental health teams to work more closely together.  

The aim is to ensure that people will receive appropriate care within four weeks of initial contact with the NHS.  

People in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes with moderate to severe mental health problems will also benefit from improved access to psychological therapies (talking therapies), improved physical health care, employment support (individual placement and support), personalised and trauma-informed care, medicines management and support for self-harm and coexisting substance misuse.   

Work to deliver the new approach will start in spring 2021.

“This is a unique opportunity to make fundamental changes to how the NHS provides community mental health care for the people of Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes,” said Richard Fradgley, ELFT Director of Integrated Care, co-chair of the Bedfordshire, Luton & Milton Keynes Integrated Care System Mental Health Programme. 

Lesley Halford, service director for CNWL’s Mental Health services in Milton Keynes, said: “These changes will make a huge difference to the way mental health care is provided. At their heart are service users who will receive the right person-centred care in the right place at the right time.

“We’ve modelled ourselves around a needs-led service, which allows service users to tell their story and be confident it will be heard and understood and continue to be heard throughout recovery.”