HEALTH AND CARE: Streamlining access to mental health support

Mental Health Awareness Week sees the launch of a pioneering new approach to mental health support in West Sussex.
The Pathfinder clinical service team, working in partnership with Pathfinder alliance organisations across West SussexThe Pathfinder clinical service team, working in partnership with Pathfinder alliance organisations across West Sussex
The Pathfinder clinical service team, working in partnership with Pathfinder alliance organisations across West Sussex

Pathfinder West Sussex brings together an alliance of ten third sector providers working across the county in partnership with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to enable people with mental health support needs, and their carers, to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

West Sussex is one of only four areas across the country that have used a new NHS ‘alliance contract’ and Pathfinder is the first programme in the country where there is no lead provider, and all organisations are equal partners.

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For the majority of people with mental health support needs, the third sector is able to support and meet their needs effectively, helping people to stay well. For a smaller number of individuals seeking support, clinical intervention is necessary.

In the past, people with mental health support needs would often build relationships with third sector non-statutory groups, then find if they needed clinical intervention, would have to go to their GP and wait to be referred. Or they would come out of statutory support and experience the anxiety of leaving those support systems and not necessarily know what other services were available to them.

Pathfinder clinical service team leader Jenny Edge explained that for those individuals who do require ‘step up’ support, the Pathfinder clinical service acts like a bridge.

Jenny said: “We ‘walk alongside’ people to connect them with services to make that a much smoother transition for people. “If people can access mental health support in a timely way, then they become less unwell so it has less of an impact on their overall functioning, their ability to engage with the things that are important to them, their ability to contribute, their quality of life, so that’s the gain.”

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While the majority of clients within alliance organisations do not need the additional support, the fact that protective intervention is available can be a great reassurance, helping them to better manage and often stay with non-statutory mental health support.

Pathfinder clinician Christopher Corbett explained what a typical day for him looks like: “Most of my time is spent within third sector organisations, embedded within the team environment. I carry a caseload of clients, most of whom I see for protective intervention, referred to me by Coastal West Sussex Mind locally. Clinicians in other areas will work with the organisation local to them.

“I provide clients with an assessment and clinical intervention. That could be helping an individual manage anxiety or depression or reinforcing different skills or coping strategies, or it might be signposting to other services more appropriate to them.

“I work to upskill Pathfinder staff members to see if they can support the person without a clinician being directly involved. Providing that consultation is part of my role. I also do spend time with SPFT assessment treatment services and work with clients who are referred to step down treatment support.

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“Having a clinical service within a non-statutory service is new. It’s the first time members of a third sector organisation have been able to refer a service user straight back to an NHS clinician without going through a GP. We help link people to services that are available outside of the NHS and we help prevent people being referred back unless they need it.”

You can access resources as well as find local area contact numbers for Pathfinder by visiting


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