Published on: 15th May 2024

Our 'care responders' research project has received £1.5m in funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).  

The study will pilot and evaluate a mental health joint response service to improve emergency care for young people experiencing a mental health crisis. 

The three-year study will research how a service, which involves a children’s mental health practitioner and police officer, jointly attending mental health crisis call outs, can provide timely and compassionate support. 

A 2022 survey identified that young people need better access to emergency mental health care. Over half of parents surveyed said child and young people’s mental health services for emergency care in the UK were ‘poor’ or ‘awful’.  

Dr Sarah Parry, from our young people's mental health research centre, is chief investigator for the study:

“We have already seen how a joint response for adults in crisis in Greater Manchester has improved outcomes; we’re now keen to hear what young people and families think about this new approach for young people. 

“We know young people and families often have a better experience when services work together. If mental health practitioners and the police work together, young people in crisis and their families could have a more supportive experience, reducing the risk of harm for the young person.” 

The project will test how well the approach works for young people in crisis across Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs; hear what families and young people think; explore how it could operate effectively within children’s services; and provide robust information to inform future planning of crisis care for young people. 

Maria Caulfield, Minister for Mental Health; said: "A mental health crisis can be an incredibly distressing experience for anyone, especially a young person, which is why we have bolstered mental health support with over £4.7 billion since 2018.  

“For those facing that vulnerable moment and needing urgent help, the right support needs to be in place, so it’s brilliant to see this innovative study bringing a range of services together to offer that support. We’re proud to back this research project and look forward to seeing how this way of working can help those in need.” 

Part of the project will include creative workshops with young people in partnership with Made By Mortals, a participatory arts organisation.  

Paul Hine, director at Made by Mortals, explains: "Including immersive theatre and co-production will enable us to bring young people’s lived experience to life. Interactive workshops will provide the knowledge and space to consider the changes and commitments needed.” 

A joined-up approach to mental health emergency care could help young people and their families feel heard, help them stay at home and avoid frightening hospital stays and traumatic admissions into hospital. 

Associate professor at the University of Oxford, Dr Geoff Wong, who specialises in realist evaluation and is a collaborator on the project, adds: “This is a complex intervention and its impacts on children will depend on many things - all of which we need to understand.  

“Using realist research approaches assumes that the same intervention will not work everywhere and for everyone. We need to understand what works, for who and under what circumstances.” 

The study is led by our (Pennine Care NHS) young people’s mental health research centre, in collaboration with Greater Manchester Police and leading researchers at the University of Manchester, University of Oxford, Lancaster University, and in close working partnership with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.