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Innovative mental health service hailed a ‘game changer’

Psychologists have hailed an award-winning mental health service based at Great Ormond Street Hospital as a “game changer”.

The Lucy Booth drop-in centre based in the reception of Great Ormond Street Hospital allows children and their parents to self-refer to it at the point of need, talk about their mental health needs, be assessed, receive treatment and/or be referred on to other services where appropriate. 

Professor Roz Shafran, a clinical psychologist and one of the principal investigators of the research project evaluating the service, said: “As a model, it is not one you would typically find in a paediatric setting and does not duplicate existing services.”

Its impact on patients has been “dramatic and meaningful”, she said, leading to an improved quality of life for children and their families.

Both Professor Shafran and Dr Sophie Bennett, clinical psychologist on the project, believe the service has been a “game-changer”. The booth offered brief treatments for mental health difficulties like anxiety, depression and behavioural problems.

“But we could also refer to other services within and outside the hospital for other difficulties such as support with adjustments to coping with the diagnosis of a chronic illness,” said Dr Bennett. 

Placing a low-intensity early intervention, evidence-based model into a paediatric hospital setting is innovative but the impact on patients has been “dramatic and meaningful”, leading to an improved quality of life for children and their families.

Paediatric hospitals around the country have expressed interest in replicating the model of The Lucy Booth centre, which was recognised at the Mental Health Team in this year’s BMJ awards.

The project was the vision of Professor Isobel Heyman and was set up in response to the elevated but often unmet mental health needs of children with long-term chronic conditions.

A study of the booth, which provides easy access to low level psychological interventions, was carried out to assess need and the impact of the intervention. Almost half – 45 per cent – of the 186 participants in the study presented with anxiety, 38 per cent showed signs of challenging behaviour, while 28 per cent demonstrated low mood, with many experiencing more than one difficulty. 

The research also showed the drop-in centre had made a "significant positive impact", with reductions in emotional and behavioural symptoms of participants, as well as improvements to quality of life.

The next phase of the project is to work on its wider rollout. 

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