Telepsychiatry - innovative technology to help people with mental health conditions in their recovery

A mental health crisis team in East Sussex is piloting a new system which offers Skype calls to patients so they can keep in touch from home or a place that is convenient to them.

The Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment team, based at the Woodlands Centre for Acute Care in Hastings is part of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and offers support and intensive treatment to people in their own home to help them in their recovery and to avoid them being admitted to hospital. 

The team of mental health nurses and medics will be offering telepsychiatry in addition to existing face-to-face appointments for patients who either can’t travel or who find it hard to get to appointments due to other commitments.

Tracy Albrow, Service Manager for Urgent Care Services in Hastings, said: “Sometimes people who use our service don’t engage with despite needing that extra support because they have other commitments, such as family or work commitments. Telepsychiatry will enable us to work around those commitments and open up another way for people to receive help and support when it suits them.

“It will mean we can see more people and see them faster. We are also hoping that this pilot will improve engagement with carers and families who may not live close but will now still be able to be part of their loved one’s care.”

Dr Daniel Checutti, Consultant Psychiatrist at Sussex Partnership, added: “Telepsychiatry will offer patients the opportunity to interact with clinicians over a more diverse means of communication. Younger generations in particular may feel more at ease communicating through technology than face to face. In addition, telepsychiatry may serve to decrease the formal boundaries of a face to face meeting, and patients may feel more comfortable disclosing information that they might have been embarrassed to disclose in a face-to-face setting.”

The pilot will run for six months with patients at the Sanctuary, a supported house in the community for people who don’t need to be in hospital but for other reasons cannot remain at home, to build confidence with the technology and iron out any glitches. At the end of the pilot the team will evaluate the effectiveness of the system and the experiences of both patients and staff.  

Tracy explains more in this film: