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App to track patients at risk of suicide among 'trail-blazing' mental health projects

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NHS England is funding mental health tech projects NHS England is funding mental health tech projects including an app tracking patients at risk of suicide or self-harm

NHS England is set to fund a series of ‘trail-blazing’ projects aimed at innovating mental health treatment, including an app which tracks patients at risk of self-harm or suicide.

The project will see seven trusts funded £70 million each – £35 million from NHS England which they will match themselves – to develop new ways of tackling mental health by focussing on what digital platforms can offer.

Each trust is hoped to become a world-leader in the digital era of mental healthcare – aiming to reduce time and costs of treatment while improving quality across the NHS.

NHS England’s director for mental health Professor Tim Kendall said: ‘Many mental health services across the country are already using technology in new and innovative ways to help provide the support people need and reduce pressure on services, including A&E departments.

‘Initiatives range from virtual appointments for people who feel more comfortable doing that than meeting face to face; or providing street triage teams to secure access to essential patient information via a tablet when they are called to support someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

‘This investment will help frontline staff and service users identify those opportunities for new service models enabled by digital technology that make a clear difference to peoples’ lives.’

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust is developing an app with Stanford University to anticipate and respond to serious self-harm and suicide risks. A feasibility study will explore the usability of the technology and how the platform performs against treatment as usual.

The other six trusts will explore a variety of projects including online consultations for patients, real-time mobile access to patient records and making tried-and-tested psychological therapies available on smartphones and laptops.

Public health minister Nicola Blackwood said: ‘In the age of the smartphone, excellent use of information and technology is fundamental to the transformation of the health and care system.

‘The selected trusts will be truly world class in supporting high quality care with digital technology, providing a blueprint for excellence, not only to the NHS, but across the world.’

The seven trusts involved in the project are Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust.

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