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13 October 2022

Students in Liverpool are benefitting from improved mental health support, thanks to a partnership including the Innovation Agency.

An independent evaluation by the Office for Students (OfS) found that a model developed in Liverpool has boosted support for students seeking help for severe or enduring mental health conditions.

The approach is also informing partnerships between higher education providers and local NHS services in other parts of the country.

The Innovation Agency joined the Working in Partnership to Improve Student Mental Health project with partners the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Brownlow Health – a group of four GP practices – and the student unions to develop an integrated support model.

The partnership was a response to the OfS £14.5m Mental Health Challenge Competition, launched in June 2019, which aimed to deliver major improvements in student mental health outcomes and funded 10 projects across the country.

The ‘Liverpool model’ has seen a new student liaison service help 429 students to access the appropriate mental health support by improving links between university and NHS services. The model gives students who present at urgent care services a brief intervention, signposting or referral, and allows for student cases to be discussed between NHS and university teams to ensure care is arranged with the most appropriate pathway.

In addition, 299 students have been able to access a new service for self-harm called U-COPE. Evidence gathered from students who accessed the service suggests it has helped to speed up access to vital support.

Innovation Agency Chief Executive Dr Phil Jennings said: “We’re very pleased with the findings because the project played to our strengths – bringing people together to form productive relationships and helping partners to navigate the local health and care landscape.

“It’s doubly pleasing that it’s had such a positive impact and that it’s inspiring similar schemes elsewhere in the country.

Project lead Dr Paula Harrison, Director of Student Administration and Support at the University of Liverpool, said: “Students have really valued being able to access support locally at the university, and that service has been responsive to their needs.

“We’re really delighted with the outcomes of the project work we’ve been undertaking in Liverpool and the partnerships that we’ve formed already. We’re pleased that we are going to be able to extend the work that we’ve been doing.

“The partnership has now been extended to all the other higher education institutions in Liverpool, opening up all of the services to the 65,000 higher education students in the city.  We are working on plans to embed the service in the local health infrastructure.”

Chair of the OfS, Lord Wharton, said: “Supporting students in relation to their mental health is important if they are to achieve their full potential and be well equipped for a successful life after graduation. 

“Our evaluation shows that students have seen tangible benefits from these projects, including improved access to support and strengthened partnerships between universities and colleges and other organisations for more effective support.”

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