Sam Allen: Housing as a cornerstone for positive mental health

Sam Allen is Chief Executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Sam AllenHousing is nothing to do with healthcare.

I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. And I’m excited that we’re arriving at a more enlightened view – and a plan of action – about how we can work better together across our health and care system and organisations to address what can sometimes feel like an unsolvable issue.

Housing problems, poor quality housing or homelessness can impact on your emotional wellbeing  and mental health . Equally, poor mental health can make it harder to cope with housing problems.  It really can be a vicious circle for many.

I want to outline what we plan to do about this. But first, three facts:

  • Over 50% of people who are homeless and in priority need have mental health problems.
  • Too often, people who are medically fit to leave hospital cannot be discharged because of problems with their accommodation
  • Evidence tells us that addressing housing issues for people under the care of specialist mental health services plays a central role in their recovery.

Across the Sussex Health and Care Partnership we all share a common vision for the health and wellbeing of our communities. We want all of Sussex to be a place where people can start well, live well and age well. For this to be achieved, everyone needs access to good quality, affordable homes that provide a secure place to thrive and which promote good health, wellbeing and independent living.

Our shared ambition is to ensure that housing is a cornerstone for delivering positive mental health outcomes for adults across Sussex. As partners across the NHS, social care, housing and community sectors, we are working together to take a more strategic and integrated approach to housing and mental health.

We want to deliver our mental health care, treatment and support in the least restrictive environment possible and recognise that the home environment has a key role to play in providing effective recovery and reablement support for people.

Our approach needs to be truly collaborative and co-produced in order to create practical solutions for the people who rely on our services.

To this end, we have been working with partners across our local system on a mental health and housing strategy.  This includes five strategic objectives, which will become part of the road map we create for future integrated mental health services.

  1. Create Mental Health and Housing Strategic Plans for each place in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton & Hove.
  2. Ensure housing expertise is embedded within the new model for community mental health services being developed across the Sussex Health and Care Partnership
  3. Pilot, evaluate and extend the Discharge to Assess models, building on shared learning across each pilot to optimise outcomes and improve flow and transitions from inpatient provision.
  4. Deliver the ambition to create new integrated models of supported housing for people with multiple and complex needs thereby reducing the need for inappropriate out of area hospital placements and residential care.
  5. Drive forward the integration of housing, social care and mental health clinical services, by supporting Sussex Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust to establish strategic and operational partnerships with providers of housing and housing services, that improves individual outcomes, service quality and reduces unnecessary variation.

These actions are about taking practical, tangible action together. They are founded on the tenet of viewing housing support workers and clinicians with equal respect as professionals with different, but compatible, expertise.  We have united across our partnership to set out this plan and the actions will be delivered in each of our three places, East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.  They will require all partners to work together.

By embracing the expertise of others, we can do something truly remarkable to improve the quality of life of the people we’re here to serve. We can also move away from the traditional, outdated way of working where artificial organisational and sector boundaries get in the way of us doing our very best for our local communities.