Our Health and Wellbeing College can save over £1m a year and improve lives

Amy W JOur Health and Wellbeing College has estimated it can save up to £1.3m of NHS money every year, while making a positive difference to the lives of people with mental health issues.

This is based on a globally-published evaluation.

The college provides students with the skills and knowledge to take control of their mental health recovery, along with opportunities to connect with others.

This resulted in the students having fewer appointments or phone calls with a mental health professional, which saved money and freed up clinicians’ time to support people with more complex mental health issues.

The Health and Wellbeing College offers a range of educational mental health recovery courses, including ‘Out of the Blues’ (coping with low mood), ‘Cool It’ (managing anger) and many more.

While the college is based in Ashton-under-Lyne, it’s open to people aged over 18 years who live in the boroughs of Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Tameside and Glossop and Stockport (the areas where we provide mental health services).

Since opening in 2017, our college team has supported 1214 students. There are currently six volunteers and 16 former students who have been offered paid employment as a part-time peer trainer. 

This involves using their lived experience of mental health issues to support students and to develop and deliver courses.   Through this, the peer trainers are able to continue their recovery and take the next step towards developing a meaningful and active life.

Key findings

The evaluation was led by college leads George Edgeley and Katie Kay.

They focused on a group of 137 students who had recently received mental health care and treatment.  After they enrolled with the college, nearly two thirds of these students had fewer appointments and phone calls with our mental health staff compared to the previous year.

In total there was a 19 per cent reduction. Assuming each appointment or phone call is two hours, it freed up 1,570 hours of our clinicians’ time to support those with more complex mental health issues.

Based on these findings, if 1,341 students enrol in an academic year (an estimate based on current student numbers), the college has the potential to save up to £1.3m every year, which we can reinvest in other services.

On top of this, the evaluation highlighted many positive and invaluable benefits to students. They feel that the college provides them with a sense of belonging, identity and a connection to others. They have developed friendships which really help to speed up their recovery. 

Former student and peer trainer Amy Wilcox Jones (pictured), 25, from Oldham, said: “I felt I had no purpose in life and ruled out many goals simply because I thought I’d never be able to achieve them.

“The first day I came to the college I was so anxious. I was quickly put at ease when I was welcomed by a friendly face.

“One of our lovely peer trainers gave me so much hope that I could do the things I wanted to in life; she truly inspired me.

“We benefitted from textbook facts and lived personal experiences to relate to. That’s so helpful and calming to me and many other students.

“Since that first day I haven’t looked back. I said goodbye to my mental health team, who I miss dearly as they got me through some of my toughest times but it is a massive achievement. Those dreams that I ruled out last year are now a reality.

“I’ve recently moved on from the college to gain some experience in hospital-based mental health services. My goal is to go to university next year and train to become an occupational therapist, working within mental health services.

George said:  “We speak to students every single day, so we’ve known for a long time that the college can make a real difference to people’s lives and play a vital role in their recovery. 

“We’re delighted we now have strong evidence of how the college benefits patients, staff and the NHS. 

Katie added: “We’d now like to look into working with colleagues from a local university on a longer-term piece of research.  We’re keen to share our evaluation nationally and encourage the development of more services like the college. 

“Based on our evaluation, the savings for the NHS as a whole could be ground breaking.

“Excitingly we’ve already had the opportunity to speak at several national and international conferences and have more planned later this year.”

The evaluation report has been published on Emerald Insight (a global research publisher).  Click here to read the report

If you'd like to know more about our college, please click here to visit the website.