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NHS England - Transformation Directorate

Berkshire Healthcare supporting safer, patient-centred mental health care provision

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is a community and mental health trust, serving around 920,000 people in Berkshire and across neighbouring counties. It provides services in over 100 locations, including hospitals, health clinics and GP practices, as well as in home settings. The trust employs around 5,000 staff.

In March 2020, Berkshire Healthcare was rated as Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). During their inspection, CQC noted that Berkshire Healthcare “continued to build on its innovation as a global exemplar”.

Berkshire Healthcare completed the GDE programme and achieved their accreditation in March 2021.

What was the aim?

Through the GDE programme the trust aimed to further accelerate already strong levels of digital maturity and use new technology to support safer, patient-centred mental health care provision.

The trust set out 4 ways to achieve this. All tech projects fell within these domains:

  1. Improving patient access and communications
  2. Digitising wards and services
  3. Supporting a digital workforce
  4. Improving care quality and research

What was the solution and impact?

SHaRON: the online peer-support-based system

SHaRON (which stands for Support, Hope and Recovery Online) is a secure, clinically-moderated, social, therapeutic network which links up patients, carers and clinicians in a ‘social media’ style format. It was co-designed with patients and has enabled over 3,000 individuals to access information and resources to support their recovery and self-management of their mental health condition.

Patients and their families can use SHaRON as a confidential space and to access 24/7 support for conditions such as eating disorders, perinatal mental health, and child and adolescent mental health.

Eighty per cent of patients using SHaRON said it aided their recovery and readmission of patients to the emergency department is less than 10 percent, compared to a 30 to 50 per cent national average.

The trust has blueprinted this technology, and offers support in helping other organisations to adopt it. Already Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has rolled it out across a number of their services.

New patient correspondence portal

A patient correspondence portal has been introduced so that appointments and letters are automatically sent to patients electronically, removing administration from the process and largely reducing use of paper.

The portal benefits patients as they now receive their appointments digitally within 48 hours of it being made. The electronic correspondence is also available in 96 languages. Staff can use mobile devices when making appointments whilst they’re working in the community and people’s homes.

Interactive ward information boards

The trust has replaced hand written whiteboards with touchscreen devices, showing clear up to the minute information about patients and the ward. The devices link directly to the Electronic Patient Record (EPR) to show critical patients care needs. It also connects to the e-observation system so staff can be alerted if a patient has missed a regular observation when on unescorted leave. The interactive information boards highlight critical data for staff, making it easy to find the information they need, and improving handover times and data quality.

Digital bed management

Berkshire Healthcare introduced a digital bed management system, allowing real time management of beds on wards. In the past, a staff member would manually monitor bed availability and upcoming discharges. The system now does this automatically. This improves operational efficiency on wards and has the potential to reduce money spent on out of area bed placements, benefitting the trust, patients and their families.

Self directed psychotherapy platforms

The trust has worked with SilverCloud to introduce a number of digital solutions to deliver care across a range of services:

  • IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) - online therapies and consultations allow patients to access therapies from home, reducing appointment times allowing staff to see more patients
  • Perinatal services - supporting quick and easy access with no wait and effective treatment to mums requiring priority treatment

The trust has blueprinted this solution, so prebuilt packages can be rolled out across other organisations, saving them the time and resources needed to design and build this kind of tech.

Virtual consultations for patients

Clinically effective online consultations are in operation across all care settings as standard, enabled by Microsoft Teams and One Consultation.

Berkshire Healthcare has increased from 200 virtual consultations a month to over 2,000 a week, realising non-cash releasing clinical efficiency savings of approximately £600,000 per year of clinical time, and a reduction in ‘Did Not Attend’ rates from 7% to 4%.


Community Psychiatric Nurse, CMHT, sharing their experience whilst out in the community:

“I started to send an email to the Consultant Psychiatrist and could see that they had Teams running. So I sent her an instant message instead and suggested that we do a Teams video call. We did a video call in the client’s home. Quality was brill and really assisted in our decision making on planning a way forward in the client’s recovery! The client’s wife was so appreciative of the video call and said that ‘it was great that we are using technology in this way’”.

Hannah Page, Psychological Therapist, sharing her experience using online consultations:

“A client who stands out for me is one who had their first telephone assessment at the start of lockdown. They have mobility problems and don’t drive so getting to sessions would have been a barrier to treatment. They also don’t sleep well so getting up for sessions would have been hard. This client had complex trauma and we followed a treatment plan, doing everything online. They were discharged this year and are symptom free after 20 years of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), so it’s massive that we were able to achieve that without seeing each other in person.”