Discussions to improve mental health enter their final stage

Discussions between local NHS organisations and charities to improve the mental health of people in Devon have entered their final stage.

Extensive engagement over the past few months have helped shape how voluntary, community, social enterprise and independent sector (VCSEI) organisations can be at the forefront of Devon’s new Community Mental Health Framework. Those discussions have led to a point where an alliance of VCSEI organisations has formed. This alliance will now be working collaboratively with statutory health services and local authorities to agree on a contract, with a view to signing this in December. The alliance of charities will then be at the heart of plans to improve how people in Devon with severe mental health problems are supported.

The alliance comprises:

  • Improving Lives Plymouth,
  • Devon Mind,
  • Shekinah,
  • Step One,
  • CoLab Exeter and
  • Rethink Mental Illness

These organisations have a long track record of supporting people. Each will be able to bring particular knowledge and experience to make the combined force even stronger.

Commenting on the entering this final stage, Amanda Kilroy, Chief Executive of CoLab Exeter, says: ‘As an alliance of locally based organisations, we work with over 30,000 people a year to improve their mental health. This opportunity will provide a platform for us to increase the impact we make, and a framework to support wider VCSEI and statutory partners across the county who do such a great job in raising the wellbeing of Devon residents.”

Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s Senior Commissioning Manager for Adult Mental Health, Justin Wiggin, says: “A lot of hard work has gone in to reaching this important stage. The response to our initial plans from the VCSEI sector has been amazing. We have now reached the stage where we can sit down together and get into the detail of the role Devon’s VCSEI will play in delivering the Framework and improving the support available across the county.”

You can find out more about the Community Mental Health Framework on this site. 


Lots of new jobs as Framework takes shape

More staff are starting new jobs across Devon thanks to the Community Mental Health Framework (CMHF). The Framework will see nearly 140 new jobs created in total over the next 18 months. It is a fantastic opportunity for people to move into mental health, as well as for existing staff to develop their careers.

The Framework provides a way of improving access to better, more joined-up care for people in our communities with serious mental health needs. The new model creates multi-agency, placed-based teams in each of Devon’s 31 Primary Care Network areas. The teams will combine services, create new roles and care pathways and greatly improve integration with social care providers and partners from the voluntary, community, social enterprise (VCSE) and independent sector.

The last few months have seen the recruitment of ten Peer Support Workers and 15 Clinical Associate Psychologists. Both roles offer important new dimensions to the local support that is available to people.

Peer Support Workers are playing a particularly important role, bringing hugely valuable expertise from their personal experience of mental health issues. Each person brings different knowledge and insights from their own experiences and evidence tells us that can play a unique role in supporting a person’s journey of recovery. We are currently recruiting more Peer Support Workers and will recruit another group early next year.

Mike Bridgman, one of the new Peer Support Workers, says: “”Working as a Peer Support Worker in the community has been exciting. The team has been inviting and given me time to settle-in and I have seen how peer support can help people.”

Clinical Associate Psychologists are psychology graduates who work under the supervision of a registered Clinical Psychologist. Our new starters are receiving training at Plymouth and Exeter universities and getting started in their new teams.

Dean Moreton, one of the new Clinical Associate Psychologists, says: “The team I have been placed with has been really supportive, making me feel welcome and a valued member of the team. The University team have also been great and the course is very well planned.” 

Amethyst Wheeler says: “It is going really well so far; my team in Honiton are lovely. The University part of the course started last week. There was a lot of information given, but I am starting to process it all and I’m really excited to get started!”

Other job opportunities brought about by the Framework include advanced practice occupational therapists, rehabilitation social workers, specialist pharmacist prescribers, psychological therapists, family therapists and dieticians.

This is an exciting time to join and be a part of a transformation in the way that we support people with serious mental health needs in Devon. Recruitment to these roles is being led by Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Livewell Southwest and the VCSE alliance. Keep an eye on their websites for more details.


New local teams start implementing community mental health improvements

Local Implementation Teams (LITs) are now up-and-running across the county, developing and implementing improved support for people with serious mental health problems. There are five LITs (north, south, east, west and Plymouth) and they are each working hard to make Devon’s Community Mental Health Framework a reality.

The Framework is an ambitious project, backed by more than £15m of new funding, to transform how services and organisations work together to provide better mental health support in the community. It will tackle many of the current issues by bringing organisations together into one team dedicated to mental health.

The LITs provide a place for everyone involved locally in the Framework to come together to decide what needs doing in their area. The priorities and ways of working vary across the county and the LITs are finding the best ways of delivering better and more joined-up care and support at a local level. All LITs include people with lived experience alongside people from primary care, community mental health services, social care and TALKWORKS, as well as the voluntary, community, social enterprise and independent sector (VCSEI).

It is still early days for the LITs but they are already proving a useful forum and are beginning to shape the way communities are supporting people. Each LIT has a Locality Change Co-ordinator who is leading the work.

Beth Fisher, Locality Change Co-ordinator for Plymouth, says: “The implementation of the Framework is well under way in Plymouth which is very exciting to see.”

In the East of the county, the LIT has three sub-groups that work at an even more localised level. Jane Dewar, Locality Change Co-ordinator for East Devon, comments:  “The energy, enthusiasm and drive of our brilliant colleagues from across the mental health pathway has been humbling and I am confident this collaborative approach will bring about improvements in care and a better experience for people with serious mental health needs and their families – as well as for our dedicated colleagues delivering those services.”

In North Devon, Jenny Ball says: “There is great enthusiasm and a real keenness to work collaboratively across the system, to build on some fab work that is already going on whilst making sure everyone knows about the opportunities for change and improvement.”

Plans to improve mental health support progressing well

During the summer the NHS and local authorities have been working with the voluntary, community, social enterprise and independent (VCSE/I) sector to develop a new approach to supporting people with severe mental illness in the community.

The work is part of Devon’s Community Mental Health Framework which will see care, support and treatment delivered around the county’s 31 Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – which are local groups of GP surgeries.

Work undertaken during the summer months has begun to explore how groups of VCSE/I organisations can come together, as an alliance, to work across Devon, Torbay and Plymouth. An alliance will help:

  • Increase the available psychological therapies and interventions
  • Support people’s mental health rehabilitation and recovery
  • Reduce loneliness and isolation among older people experiencing mental health problems
  • Reduce digital exclusion
  • Link with local organisations to strengthen community support for people with mental health needs.

VCSE/I sector and statutory agencies will work together in local areas to support people’s mental health. People will be at the heart of decision making about their own care, support and treatment. Those with a severe mental illness will be connected to the right support for them.

Justin Wiggin, Senior Commissioning Manager at NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is a really exciting time. We know there is lots of really great work happening within the voluntary sector across the whole of Devon. The interest and response to the engagement events has been amazing. Nearly 150 organisations from Devon, Plymouth and Torbay registered their interest in exploring the opportunity. The VCSE/I sector has so much to offer people to support their mental health recovery. Together we have been discussing what services might look like, listening and learning from each other to shape what an alliance might look like.”

A series of workshops were held to develop service descriptions and meetings with potential alliances have been held to understand the level of interest from the sector. Two potential alliances are now being worked with to commission a single pan-Devon alliance by December 2021.

Find out more about the Community Mental Health Framework in Devon.


Mental health

Improving the support for people with serious mental health problems is a key priority. The Integrated Care System in Devon is transforming community support through the Community Mental Health Framework.

What is the Community Mental Health Framework?



Many of the mental health services that we provide in Devon are very good, and we have worked hard over recent years to increase investment, extend the range of services available and improve people’s experience of those services.

One area that has lacked sustained focus and investment, both locally and nationally, is the provision of community mental health services for adults (people aged 18 and over) with severe mental health needs.

In particular, we know that many of our community mental health teams have long waiting lists and there are gaps between services.  We also know that people find it difficult to access the services they need and to navigate their way around a system that offers support from many different sources, including GPs, health and social care providers, local authorities and the voluntary sector. Furthermore, we know that mental health support is not as closely integrated as it needs to be with other key services, such as those providing help with housing and employment.

We are now in the process of implementing plans to tackle these issues and to deliver more consistent, joined-up support for people that better meets their personal needs and also the needs of their local communities. 

National context

The changes proposed for Devon are part of a national improvement programme called the Community Mental Health Framework (CMHF). The NHS Long Term Plan pledges to deliver £2.3 billion of extra funding to mental health services in England by 2023/24.  Over the next five years, £1 billion will be spent to expand and improve community mental health services around the country to meet people’s needs more fully.  In Devon, we have successfully bid for our share of this funding. The Framework will bring an additional £15m into the county to support the plan.

What is the plan for Devon?

Over the next 18 months we will introduce a new model of community mental health care in Devon. We received very positive feedback from NHS England and NHS Improvement about our proposals. 

The core principles of the new model include:

  • Tailored services based around individuals and their whole-life needs – not just their mental health needs
  • Services as close-to-home as possible and shaped to meet the needs of local communities
  • A one-team approach – removing organisational boundaries to ensure joined-up care
  • Support in finding your way around the system
  • Co-production and co-design with people who have lived experience of mental health issues
  • Consistent services and standards of quality across the county.

The core features of the new model include:

  • Targeted neighbourhood support aligned with Devon’s 31 Primary Care Networks(PCNs) and provided by Multi Agency Teams (MATs)
  • Peer Navigators to walk alongside people so they get help when and where it is needed
  • A specific focus on:
    • the transition of young people to adult services
    • the needs of younger adults (18–25-year-olds)
    • the needs of older adults
    • the physical health of people with mental health needs
  • Three clinical areas will be the focus of more targeted support:
    • eating disorders
    • personality disorders
    • mental health rehabilitation
  • Formal arrangements with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) and private organisations to ensure fair and equal provision of support across the county.

What’s happening now?

Conversations are under way with staff and people who have lived experience of mental health issues, to ensure that their feedback shapes progress as we move forward.

Discussions are taking place with an alliance of VCSE groups. The aim is for this alliance to be an important provider of the additional support being offered as a core part of the Framework. This alliance will, potentially, receive £3.6m of the new funding. Discussions have been taking place over the summer about how this support can best be provided and it’s hoped an alliance will be selected before the end of 2021.

Closer integration with the county’s GPs and PCNs, and supporting them to provide better and more joined-up care, is a core element of this improvement programme. Devon is divided into five local areas and Locality Implementation Teams (LITs) in each of these areas have started to develop plans for making the Framework a reality in their patch. These LITs bring together key partners from primary care, mental health services, people with lived experience, local authorities and the VCSE.

Staff are already being recruited to boost the workforce. In total there will be around 140 more people directly supporting people in the county with serious mental health needs. Ten Peer Support Workers and 12 Clinical Associate Psychologists have already started work, with more to come. 

What happens next?

PCNs are starting to establish their Multi Agency Teams, although they are at different stages in their development. These teams will be introduced gradually over the next 18 months. Meanwhile, plans for the delivery of the three clinical areas of particular focus (eating disorders, personality disorders and rehabilitation) are being finalised.   

How do I find out more or get involved?

If you have any queries or would like to receive updates about the programme or get involved, please email dpn-tr.communications@nhs.net  

You can also stay up-to-date by subscribing to our monthly Community Mental Health Newsletter.

You can also download a leaflet with basic information about the Framework.