The National Institute for HeaIth and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South London has been awarded £1.875 million to lead the UK’s Mental Health Priority Network. The network aims to drive national collaborations and changes in mental health practice.  They will work closely alongside NIHR ARC East of England to deliver this work and the network of all ARCs nationally. The NIHR have funded the network for three years from 1 October 2020.

Mental health network

This is an important opportunity for us all to work together co-productively to find effective ways to help service users and their carers. I’m looking forward to working with colleagues in a unique collaboration with strong public and patient involvement at its core to ensure we focus on what matters most to those that require help and support.”

Tina Coldham

Tina Coldham, a mental health user consultant, trainer and researcher will lead public and community involvement, engagement and participation in the network.

The ARCs collaborated to enter the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) National Priorities Competition, launched in 2019 to address specific challenges for the health and care system, and improve service delivery across the England.

Professor Colin Drummond, programme lead at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London (hosting ARC South London)  said: "I am delighted we have been given this opportunity to transform implementation of effective mental health interventions in England. I am looking forward to working with key national and local stakeholders to drive much needed service change in mental health, with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of service users and carers. We have developed a national collaboration of the key experts in mental health implementation and research, including partners from all 15 ARCs.”

The Mental Health Priority Network will involve service users, local communities, health and care providers, commissioners and a wide range of regional and national stakeholders to deliver evidence-based service change. Projects will work to improve mental health across the life course by catalysing and evaluating high impact interventions at key stages in regional and national services.

Professor Jesus Perez, mental health theme lead and consultant psychiatrist at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (hosting ARC East of England) said: "I am both honoured and delighted to be part of the new ARC national priority mental health network. Undoubtedly, the NIHR offers us a golden opportunity to make a significant impact on the mental health care provided across England. This collaboration will listen to and work closely with our communities in order to identify the questions that matter most to them, whilst putting available evidence-based solutions into practice for a real positive change to the service they currently receive."

The network’s objectives are:

  • To create a national collaboration between key multidisciplinary, stakeholders across government, health services, the third sector, universities and service users and the public, to work together to catalyse implementation of effective mental health interventions
  • To work together to identify and prioritise areas of mental health services that require improvement to meet individual and system needs
  • To identify evidence-based solutions to maximise the relevance and impact of the interventions at a population and individual level
  • To identify and agree the best methods for implementing the required evidence-based solutions and to test how they can be put into practice in a range of services across the Applied Research Collaborations and Academic Health Science Networks
  • To evaluate the impact of implementing mental health interventions using state of the art research methods.

This work will be underpinned by public and patient involvement, engagement and participation; workforce considerations; financial sustainability and cost effectiveness; using and developing appropriate data, technology and digital tools.

Both ARCs lead major workstreams in mental health and care, delivered by health staff and academics with world-leading expertise in implementing high quality research and assessing impact. Visit the NIHR ARC East of England and NIHR ARC South London websites for more information.

They also both have a track record of leading and collaborating on national and global projects to improve health and care. They work with Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, the NHS, Public Health England, third sector organisations, industry, overseas governments, the European Commission, World Health Organisation, United Nations, and the World Psychiatric Association.

The eight priority areas for networks funded by the NIHR are:

1. Mental health, including children and young people’s mental health

2. Adult social care and social work

3. Prevention, including behavioural risk factors

4. Multimorbidity

5. Health and care inequalities

6. Healthy ageing, including dementia and frailty

7. Children’s health and maternity.