The expansion of the Clinical Health Psychology Service at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was launched last week with a ribbon-cutting event attended by Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Member of Parliament for Chorley and Speaker of the House of Commons.
Sir Lindsay was invited to formally launch the expansion, with the Clinical Health Psychology Service (CHPS) opening a new department at Royal Preston Hospital, making psychological services more accessible to patients across Lancashire, when they need it most.
The event, which was held at the LIFE Centre at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, brought together colleagues across the service alongside Trust Chief Executive, Kevin McGee, to hear about the impact it has made and what benefits the new expansion will have.
The aim of the service is to offer help and support to adult patients with psychological distress that they may experience as a result of chronic and life-changing physical health conditions or injuries, such as cancer or severe spinal injury.
Sir Lindsay was suitably impressed. He said: “This is another milestone you provide in the NHS – you are pathfinders, leading where other Trusts will follow, and they will when they see the great success you have brought.
“It is all about living well together. The fact is, the psychological impact of people’s trauma hasn’t always been picked up on as early as it could, and they have been left to suffer in silence. Mental health is a big issue, a taboo subject, we never really deal with it.
“Thank you for making sure people who are going through a difficult time have access to the treatment they need.”
As well as promoting the psychological services that are now available at the Trust, the team also celebrated notable achievements for the Living Well Together Pathway, which, in partnership with Lancashire and South Cumbia NHS Foundation Trust, has seen a significant reduction in the waiting times from referral to appointment for mental health patients.
Dr Jen Pomfret, Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Oncology, who, until recently was joint Interim Head of Service for the Clinical Psychology Service, explained: “As a psychology health service, we often feel like are a small team in a big pond, but it feels wonderful to celebrate and acknowledge that with a lot of hard work, dedication and support from the division we have grown to what is now a team of 30 staff, including clinical therapists and admin support, celebrating a pivotal breakthrough of being given crucial office and clinical rooms at Royal Preston Hospital, which enables us to come together as a team, and see patients face to face in our own Clinical Health Psychology department.
“It is clear we are on the right track, and quite literally now “Clinical Health Psychology Service is on the map!”
Dr Lloyd Gemson, Principal Clinical Psychology, added: “The Living Well Together Pathway is around three years in the making, Dr Ellen Swannell and Dr Amy Ashton came up with the idea of working with community mental health teams to think about improving access to psychological support for people with long-term conditions.
“The pathway is a collocated service, between Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust, providing psychological assessments and support to what was the original Psychology Medicine Service. We wanted to improve access to these services so we could see people as quickly as possible, when they needed it most, and tailor therapy to an individual’s needs, giving them the skills and psychological techniques to live their lives despite any health conditions.
“Since the Living Well Together trial started in the summer of 2021, over 200 people have been referred into the service. If you look at a six-month period pre-COVID-19,and the same period between January and June 2022, preliminary findings suggest the waiting time, from point of referral to having an appointment, has been significantly reduced, so it’s been a huge success.”
Trust Chief Executive Kevin McGee was also in attendance, and very proud of what has been achieved in a short time. At the event he thanked the team, saying: “What I see every day are outstanding services delivered in the NHS, and I’m immensely proud of what we do.
“We are always trying to departmentalise everything, it gets more and more specialist, but what we’ve missed for so long is that holistic care, and that’s what this pathway is starting to bring back – being able to link physical and mental health together is so profoundly powerful.”
Future plans for the service are to continue to improve access to mental health support for long-term conditions and use it as a role-model service for other Trusts, demonstrating the benefits of collocated services and integrated care in the NHS.