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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
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Trust receives share of £1.5 million from Innovation for Improvement programme

Published: 23/04/2015


An initiative led by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to improve care for patients with painful, distressing symptoms which cannot be explained despite testing and examination, has been selected by an independent health care charity, to be part of its new innovation programme.

Unexplained pain, tiredness, fits or stomach problems are some of the most commonly encountered health symptoms across all healthcare. They account for 20 per cent of all GP consultations and 50 per cent of new referrals to hospitals, highlighting the significance of the Health Foundation funding.

The cost to the NHS has been calculated at around £3 billion per annum (11% of total NHS expenditure). There is hardly any specialist clinical service for many of these patients, due to a lack of specific training for doctors and because health systems are traditionally separated into either physical or mental healthcare. Yet collaboration between mental health and physical health specialists can improve physical symptoms in 67% of cases resulting in a reduction of frequent hospital attendances.

The Trust is working in a partnership with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Karis Medical Centre, Birmingham South Central CCG, Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit, Centre for Mental Health, West Midlands Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLARHC) and West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).  

These organisations will work together on an innovative approach to managing patients with severe symptoms for which no underlying cause can be found, gathering evidence on how the initiative will improve the quality of health care.

Dr Amanda Gatherer, Director of Psychological Services and Head of Psychology said: “We are thrilled to have been selected by the Health Foundation to be part of Innovating for Improvement and we look forward to working with our partners to improve care for those patients with severe medically unexplained symptoms. Our patients’ needs are at the heart of this project and we are pleased to have been given the opportunity to develop our innovative approach to benefit them.”

Libby Keck, Programme Manager from the Health Foundation said, “We are excited to be working with such a high-calibre of teams, who all have great innovative ideas. Our aim is to promote the effectiveness and impact of the teams’ innovations and show how they have succeeded in improving the quality of health care, with the intention of these being adopted across the UK health service.”

The Health Foundation’s ‘Innovating for Improvement’ project supports seventeen health care projects in the UK. The programme will run for fifteen months and each project will receive up to £75,000 of funding to support the implementation and evaluation of the project.