Birmingham and Solihull are shortlisted in the HSJ Awards workforce category


Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) has been shortlisted in the Workforce category at this year’s HSJ Awards for their Youthspace Youth Board’s recruitment programme. We spoke to Pip Hoskins, Partnership Development Project Manager, to find out more.

Why did your Trust decide to enter the Workforce category?
Our youth board wanted to showcase one of the fantastic projects they have been involved in over the past year. The youth board is a group of young people aged between 16-25 years old, with similar experiences, who work on projects to promote awareness and understanding of youth mental health issues, and work with clinical services to help improve them for young people.

One such project is the recent recruitment and youth involvement training of a team for the new Japonica ward at the Trust’s Oleaster site. The ward will be the first inpatient unit in Birmingham for 16-17 year old females.

We are primarily a voluntary group with members that have experience of a mental health issue and are committed to improving services for other young people. We are able to influence the development of youth mental health services, and the direction of the Youthspace programme, through working closely with research and clinical staff. We are involved in the design, development and evaluation of all Youthspace projects.

Can you describe what Youthspace is and why it was established?
Youthspace is Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s planned strategy for youth services, supporting an educational prevention approach alongside targeted early interventions. It evolved from the clinical and research team’s years of experience have working, initially with young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, and then intervening early with those at ‘high-risk’ of developing a range of other mental health problems.

75% of all mental health problems have already emerged before the age of 25, and 50% by the age of 16, so adolescence and young adulthood is a crucial time. What we know from young people, supported by research, is that there are often delays in receiving the right support, at the right time, from the right people. This can include young people, their friends and family members not being aware they were unwell, the stigma associated with being unwell, and the fact that when they did identify that they might have some problems they often didn’t know where or how to get help. In addition, those that did access help often struggled to engage with adult mental health services, as they were not designed to meet the needs of this vulnerable group.

The entire strategy is underpinned by the active involvement of our youth board.  Involving young people in the development and redesign of services is the most effective way of ensuring services are relevant and appropriate to the needs of young people.

How did this programme come about?
Prior to the Japonica ward opening there was little inpatient provision in Birmingham for young people aged 16-17. This meant patients had to be admitted to hospitals around the country often many miles from Birmingham, and their families and friends. BSMHFT recognised the need to address this, and put together a case for the transformation of the Japonica ward at the Oleaster hospital to provide for this client group. As 16-17 year old females are one of the most vulnerable, and therefore challenging client groups, it was essential to get the right staff team for the ward. The staff needed to have the right clinical skills and expertise, as well as the ability to engage and relate to young people. At the earliest stage the project team saw the need for youth involvement in the project and commissioned the youth board to be an integral part of the project team.

The youth board worked closely with clinical and project staff to develop and deliver a recruitment programme that would identify the appropriate candidates for the ward. Youth board members were part of an integrated recruitment panel for each role. For all Band 6 posts and above, the youth board designed and facilitated a recruitment morning. During this, they showcased the role and work of the youth board in the development of services, and then carried out one to one care planning and activity planning tasks with prospective candidates. The youth board had an equal say in the appointment of staff, and set the precedent for youth involvement in the development and running of the ward.

The youth board also designed and facilitated two days of induction training, where they shared their experiences of an admission, and offered a different perspective to the new staff team on further ways they could support young people during the process. They developed a creative ward staff information board with the team, which remains a great talking point with the patients on the ward today, and helps break the ice for new patients.  They also worked together with the team to plan and script the digital tour of the ward that the youth board filmed and produced. The film is presented by a young person and takes the audience on a tour of the ward, meeting different staff members who explain their roles along the way.

What are the benefits for the patients?
I recently spoke with some of the staff on the ward, who told me that they are still using much of what they learnt through speaking to the youth board members during the recruitment and induction process, and that it helps them in their day to day work with the patients.

The patients are very aware that young people were part of the design team, and the entire project has set a culture of youth involvement on the ward which continues today. The patients and staff have a community meeting every week where they can raise suggestions and concerns, and as a result, implement new ideas. I also attend the community meeting on the ward on a monthly basis to talk to the patients and staff about the ongoing work of the youth board, and ways in which they can get involved both during their stay, and when they leave the ward.

Are there any future plans for the programme?
We planto evaluate the work with the Japonica ward after one year,  to review the outcomes of the project, and in particular, to see whether the youth focused culture has been maintained. Our youth board is also exploring the possibility of collecting feedback from those young people who have been admitted to the unit, to see whether their experiences compare positively against other similar wards.

We have lots of other plans, and since the work with the Japonica ward we have been inundated with requests to be involved in the recruitment of other youth service staff, including for community teams. The initial feedback from the project has been reviewed by the Trust Human Resources department, who are keen to look at how to integrate this model for recruitment across all youth services.

We have plans to continue and expand on our public health programme, doing more work with schools and local community groups to raise awareness of youth mental health, and the importance of seeking help early. We will be looking at sourcing funding to develop our e-learning programme to support this work; we already have three modules and want to develop this further.

We’re currently redeveloping our website  to make it more interactive and provide further resources for anyone wanting to know more about youth mental health, self help methods, and how to support others. We will be travelling to Brighton next week for the International Association of Youth Mental Health Conference showcasing all of our work, including presenting a poster on the Japonica project. We are always looking at ways in which we can build on the work we do and ensure the sustainability of our youth board, whose mission is to ensure all young people requiring support with their mental health are able to access and engage with appropriate youth friendly services as soon as possible, to ensure long term recovery.

Congratulations on being shortlisted and good luck at the Awards Ceremony.

About the author

NHS Professionals administrator

NHS Professionals manages the temporary staffing needs of around 66 NHS Trusts across England. An integral part of the NHS, it aims to reduce Trusts’ spending on flexible workers without compromising quality, by providing greater transparency of demand and supplying bank staff at the best possible rate. Its bank of more than 40,000 flexible workers comprises general and specialist nurses, doctors, midwives, admin/clerical , allied health professionals, healthcare scientists, support services among other healthcare professionals.

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