Understanding access to secondary mental health services during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

THIS Institute wishes to support service users, carers, and NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic with a rapid response project to understand access to and provision of mental health services at this time.



Social isolation and other issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may have an impact on mental health. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges in accessing and providing mental health services. As a result, some people who would benefit from mental healthcare may not be getting the support they need, and staff may be facing difficult ethical decisions, for example about prioritisation and changes in treatment delivery.

In this project, we are exploring how the pandemic is affecting access to secondary mental health services and the provision of treatment. Based on the views, experiences, and priorities of service users, carers, NHS staff, and wider stakeholders, we aim to create an evidence base for ‘what good looks like’ in maintaining access to mental health services, and to provide practical guidance in designing services to best meet needs for care within the current constraints.

This project aims to address a key priority for mental health research during the pandemic, that is, to identify ways to support vulnerable groups such as those with pre-existing mental health difficulties and to support frontline health staff.

We are inviting service users, carers, and mental healthcare staff to take part in an interview.

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THIS Institute will work with service users, carers, and NHS staff of secondary mental health care settings. The study will involve qualitative interviews and consensus-building exercises.

The study will use Thiscovery, THIS Institute’s own online research platform, developed to make use of citizen science methods such as crowdsourcing for generating the evidence base for healthcare improvement.

The project will produce guidance for access to secondary mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and will generate new learning that could be applied to mental health care in future. The project is intended to report findings from the first phase (qualitative interviews) in Autumn 2020.