00021745A team from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has been selected by the Health Foundation, an independent health care charity, to be part of its £1.5 million innovation programme, Innovating for Improvement.

The second round of the Innovating for Improvement programme is supporting twenty-one health care projects in the UK with the aim of improving health care delivery or the way people manage their own health care by testing and developing innovative ideas and approaches and putting them into practice.

The initiative from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust aims to trial telepsychiatry to deliver mental health services from a distance. The Emergency Department Psychiatric Service in Oxford provides assessment of all patients presenting with psychiatric issues to the Emergency Departments at the John Radcliffe and Horton Hospitals.

The service will trial videoconferencing in three ways. Firstly, to get senior medical opinion on complex cases using video interviews with the patient and member of the team’s staff. Secondly, to offer patients at the ED at the Horton Hospital the choice of an immediate specialist assessment via videoconferencing, and thirdly, to provide follow-up appointments  in our brief intervention clinic, using the patients’ own phone, tablet or computer to offer home appointments at a time convenient to the patient.

Currently there is evidence of effectiveness, cost effectiveness and acceptability of telepsychiatry among both patients and providers. It has been adopted increasingly in Australia and the USA, but has yet to be widely adopted in the UK despite the potential benefits. This project will develop relevant guidelines, test patients’ and professionals’ satisfaction with this method of communication, and examine cost and time savings.

The team will be led by Dr Kezia Lange, consultant psychiatrist for the Emergency Department Psychiatric Service.

Dr Lange said: “The Emergency Department Psychiatric Service is constantly looking for innovative ways in which to improve our practice. We hope that by introducing telepsychiatry assessments patients will not have to wait for an assessment, they can be discharged more promptly, and our staff will spend less time travelling.”

Gill Clayton, Programme Manager from the Health Foundation said: “We are very excited to be working with such high-calibre teams, who all have great innovative ideas. As an organisation we are keen to support innovation at the frontline, therefore I am pleased that we will be able to support these ambitious teams to develop and test their ideas over the next year.”

“Our aim is to promote the effectiveness and real impact of the teams’ innovations and show how they have succeeded in improving the quality of healthcare, with the intention of these being widely adopted across the UK health service.”

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.