When the government released their white paper in January, detailing planned improvements to the Mental Health Act (MHA), one of the four key principles listed was “therapeutic benefit”: focusing on supporting patients in acute mental health care to make a successful recovery. This renewed focus is welcome news, because our experience with MHA statutory forms – which act as signposts along a patient’s journey through treatment – has shown that the current system does not adequately support this aim. Immediate change is required to ensure that recovery and ultimate discharge from treatment are always the targeted destinations of each patient’s care journey.
The MHA can be complicated; there can be many stops along the way and, when you reach the end of the paper trail, there is no unified process for release. No statutory form exists for being discharged from the MHA. If recovery is to be the aim – as it should be – then there needs to be clearer signposting the whole way through the process, and proper direction for the final leg of the journey.
Digitisation of MHA statutory forms offers us the opportunity to think carefully about how the system is currently structured and how we can improve areas where the central goal of patient recovery is at risk of being obscured. It’s a chance to optimise every step of the journey; helping the patient toward a positive outcome as swiftly and as safely as possible. A coherent roadmap must be provided to ensure this safe passage.
Digitising the MHA helps to make the entire process more transparent. Professionals involved in care can access forms more quickly, reducing the inherent delays involved in distributing paper copies and making any required information more immediately visible. Clinicians also gain better access to the projection of each patient’s overall care. All those involved in treatment are able to see a clear roadmap, making it easier for clinicians at each stage of treatment to be acting in alignment with an overall trajectory toward recovery.
Increased ease of sharing could also bring the patient closer into the picture of their own care, demystifying the process and providing a greater sense of control during what is a potentially very scary stage of their life. Through digitising the statutory forms, we are consistently striving to create a clearer, more open dialogue between clinicians, and with the patient themselves.
A patient’s journey through the MHA is likely to be one of the most difficult periods of their life. Minimising the unnecessary bumps in the road is therefore essential. Digitising the MHA removes some of these obstacles.
The chance of forms going missing – a very real possibility with paper forms being passed between clinicians – is eliminated when they are shared online. This speeds up the treatment process by cutting out delays which have the potential to negatively impact a patient’s progress. Treatment can be started more immediately and the risk of patients being left in limbo is minimised.
Digitisation also reduces the chance of forms being picked up or seen by the wrong clinician or someone not involved in the patient’s care. Confidentiality is absolutely crucial when it comes to the MHA and is something that we’ve given a lot of thought at Thalamos. Ensuring that our system is encrypted and auditable allows us to provide the security that guarantees patient confidentiality is maintained. If a patient feels safe, and happy that their information is being protected, they are more likely to trust care services and continue engaging with them, which is essential for ultimate recovery.
One of the greatest barriers to recovering from acute mental illness is the difficulty of accessing appropriate care in the first place. In the current system, once someone has been sectioned, waiting times for treatment are exacerbated by the lengthy process of communicating via paper forms and delays caused by missing information. We have the power to begin overcoming these barriers and we must start using it now.
Digital forms significantly reduce the time taken for treatment to be approved. Admittance to hospital, and later transfers, are smoother and more immediate. Clinicians don’t have to spend as much time repeatedly creating and completing new forms and the potential for vital information being omitted is eliminated. Our online platform walks the clinician through the process, enabling the easy storage of forms and ensuring that every box is completed so that all the required information is entered before a form is sent. We simply cannot allow outdated systems to stand in the way of patient recovery any longer.
The MHA is only fit for purpose if it successfully supports each and every patient in accessing the best chance at recovery. For this to be possible, clear navigation must be provided by the statutory forms which drive each stage of treatment. Change is desperately needed to make the route swifter, simpler and safer. Digitising these forms is the surest way of putting the patient back at the heart of the MHA and guiding them reliably toward recovery.
Arden spent 12 years working with private equity businesses helping them build best-in-class executive teams, manage company restructures, accelerate growth and prepare management buyout deals. Arden’s dad (also called Arden) is a psychiatrist, which opened his eyes to acute mental health care from a young age. After witnessing a close friend being sectioned first-hand, he founded Thalamos to improve the process and outcome for those in crisis.
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