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I’ve worked in mental health services for all of my career and I have seen and learnt a great deal. After qualifying as a social worker in 2009, I steadily built my expertise in secondary mental health services and adult safeguarding. I qualified as an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) in 2011 meaning that I undertake and arrange Mental Health Act (MHA) assessments, usually with two approved doctors. An MHA assessment is required when there are serious concerns for a person’s wellbeing; assessment can lead to a service user being detained under the Mental Health Act.
As an AMHP I was frustrated by the process of pulling the assessment team together with a paper list and calling around to see who was available. This can result in assessment delays, which could cause the service user more distress or greater risk, which could be anywhere from their home to hospital or a police station, as well as problems for the emergency services such as the police, ED and ambulance service.
This got me thinking. There had to be an easier way of doing things and the more research I did with stakeholders, such as AMHPs, s.12 doctors, local authorities, commissioners and administrators, it seemed there was a great deal of recognition of the problem and no plans to solve it, but also an incredible amount of support for my idea of a platform that could connect AMHPs with available, local s.12 doctors. As an AMHP with a clear understanding of the nuances of the Mental Health Code of Practice, I felt able to tackle the issue head-on; this was the beginning of my transition to entrepreneur and innovator, and S12 Solutions was born.
I initially bootstrapped the idea, continued with my day job and threw myself into research, pulling in the relevant development skills as needed. In February 2017, I was fortunate to secure investment which enabled me to move forward in earnest. In the next six months, I was able to register the company, take the platform to proof of concept stage and start to build a team.
In a huge step forward, we negotiated six-month pilots across two sites which spanned seven CCGs in Cumbria and South West London. Through this process, we’ve captured a huge amount of user feedback and developed the next iteration of the platform as a consequence.
We also took part in SETsquared’s Health Innovation Programme. This was an invaluable 4-day programme which made me scrutinise the business. It really makes you focus on the end-user and what value they will get from your innovation and why they would consider paying for it.
The S12 Solutions platform makes assessments quicker and easier to arrange for AMHPs, allowing them the time to use their skills to thoroughly prepare for assessments. Doctors should get fairer access to appropriate s.12 work, more contact when they’re available, and fewer interruptions during their rest periods. Bringing the claim form process onto the platform will make it quicker, easier and more secure for everyone. Most importantly, these efficiencies will help service users get timely access to the best available assessing team.
Another huge benefit of the Health Innovation Programme is that it gives you valuable insight into the NHS as a marketplace and how new services and products are commissioned. I met an incredible range of healthcare innovators on the programme who are working on physical health solutions and other mental health initiatives that benefit the end user directly. The mentors were fantastic and will be valuable contacts going forward.
Whilst bringing a healthcare product to market isn’t easy, I would still recommend it to other healthcare professionals. Having worked at the healthcare coalface, you are uniquely placed to identify any problems or gaps in the market that can be solved or plugged.
2019 is a big year for us as we have several sites scheduled to go live in Spring, and more preparing for implementation throughout the rest of the year. We now have a team of 10 including software development, account management, finance and marketing, which is set to grow in the near future as the platform is adopted more widely. I still work part-time as an AMHP as I think it’s really important to maintain my professional working practice in the sector, but the S12 Solutions platform now gives me another way in which I can improve people’s experience of Mental Health Services.
The next Health Innovation Programme will take place on 21, 22, 24, 25 and 28 November 2022.
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