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4th July, 2019

UCL partners with NHS to improve student mental health support

UCL

UCL is building a closer relationship with local mental health services to improve support for students, as part of a nationwide partnership bringing together universities and the NHS.

The national project, funded by the Office for Students, involves seven universities, led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), working with Universities UK, Student Minds, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network and NHS England.

UCL and UWE Bristol are joined in the partnership by Imperial College London and the Universities of Sheffield, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester.

The project will address an increasing need to better coordinate care and support between universities and the NHS, as well as investigating potential barriers to accessing support, how to ensure the provision of care from students’ local NHS support services is not disrupted by starting university, and developing a clinical risk assessment tool which can be rolled out across the UK.

Each university is collaborating with their local NHS trusts on the project. UCL is working closely with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, which provides the largest share of mental health services used by UCL students, to integrate university services with primary care pathways, and improve links with secondary care providers. UCL is also reviewing how students access mental health services at providers across London to ensure a streamlined care pathway for all students.

Supporting the UCL Student Health and Wellbeing Strategy, UCL’s part of the project, the Steps Programme, is led by academics in UCL Psychology & Language Sciences, in close collaboration with the Student Support and Wellbeing team.

The project will create regional partnerships across the UK, with UCL leading the North London hub. The hubs will be connected through a national collaborative which will influence the long term plans for the NHS, ensuring that students’ needs are recognised.

UCL will be co-leading the development of an evaluation framework for the project alongside the University of Sheffield, which will incorporate student views.

“At UCL, we are committed to supporting the wellbeing of our students and enabling them to access care as needed. This project will help us ensure that mental health support for our students makes optimal use of NHS resources and backed by the latest evidence,” said Professor Peter Fonagy, Head of UCL Psychology & Language Sciences, who is leading the project at UCL.

The proportion of full-time UK undergraduate students reporting mental health concerns when they enter higher education has more than doubled over the last five years. According to a recent poll, over 87 per cent of students said they struggle with feelings of anxiety, and one in three experienced a serious psychological issue which required professional help.

The funding from the Office for Students is one part of a major collaborative programme to find innovative ways to combat a sharp rise in student mental health issues across the country and spark a step-change in student support nationwide. The Office for Students has awarded £6 million, with co-funding of £8.5 million, amounting to a total of £14.5 million investment across these 10 collaborative projects.


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