Working together to radically rethink and redesign mental health support

Collaborative Newcastle has a big vision for the City; partners have made a long-term commitment to improving the health, wealth and wellbeing of everyone in Newcastle. But how will this be achieved? What are the ways that Collaborative Newcastle can make a tangible difference?

We asked three people involved in driving forward a priority area of work this year – transforming mental health care in Newcastle – to tell us more about how they’re working in collaboration to radically rethink and redesign mental health support.

“We know from colleagues, patients and our own experiences that currently mental health services can be fragmented, difficult to access and often provided in isolation – without a full understanding of all the factors that affect an individual’s wellbeing.

“There’s a real need for significant change and collectively we believe that we need to be more ‘human’ in our approach. It can’t be about how we fit people into traditional services; it has to be about looking at each person’s problems or challenges as a whole, understanding the social needs that are contributing to mental health issues and then shaping the support accordingly.

“As a result, we’re bringing together partners in Newcastle to create better and more sustainable mental health support for local people. We are committed to improving accessibility and choice, building on community assets and developing a more person-centred, holistic approach to mental health care.

“There isn’t a quick fix. To achieve our vision we appreciate that it will require major change and long term evolution but we’re really pleased to have started the journey.”

Jackie Cairns, Director, Newcastle Gateshead CCG

“Last week we convened an online workshop with colleagues from across Newcastle, to share and discuss our vision and to initiate the first practical steps towards redefining mental health support in the City.

“Over 80 people attended the session, and we were overwhelmed by the strength and breadth of engagement from a range of community groups, health care organisations, local authority representatives and, most importantly, people who have experienced mental health challenges themselves. There was a palpable enthusiasm for the approach we discussed and a real appetite to play a part in driving forward change.

“Since the meeting we’ve set up four ‘test and try’ groups in different localities across the City, who will be working as cross-organisational teams to develop, deliver and continually refine new ways of working that better respond to people’s needs.

“This might involve delivering mental health support in non-traditional, or non-healthcare settings; it could explore more proactive ways to empower and engage local communities. But, importantly, we don’t want to second guess the solutions or the shape of a final delivery model. We know that we need to flexible, creative and collaborative in our approach.”

Dr Guy Pilkington, GP

“Through Collaborative Newcastle we have built a partnership to tackle the underlying issues affecting the health and wellbeing of our population. But the way that we achieve this can’t and shouldn’t be imposed by organisations like my own; we’re passionate about working with and alongside our communities to find the right solutions.

“Our work to improve mental health provision is focussed on building support around people’s needs – providing the right expertise, help and care in the right place, and at the right time. It is therefore really important that a wide range of partners are involved – from the local authority and GPs to the voluntary sector and communities themselves. Our recent workshop involved representatives from all of these groups and was the start of our journey, which will take time, energy and commitment to complete.

“As Collaborative Newcastle, we are in this for the long term. We recognise that services are under significant pressure at the moment with COVID-19 but we’re keen to harness the momentum generated at the workshop. It’s even more important than ever that we progress this work; there is growing evidence of the impact of the pandemic on mental health and a widening of pre-existing inequalities. From our perspective, there’s no time to lose.”

James Duncan, Deputy CEO, CNTW

If you’re involved or interested in mental health and wellbeing care or support in Newcastle and would like to get involved in our ‘test and try’ work across the City, please contact Aileen Boulton on


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