At a time when concern about the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people is higher than ever before, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) is proud to be leading the implementation of the Mental Health Support Teams in Schools (MHSTs) programme for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) in partnership with Relate Leicestershire. This new service will bring additional, targeted mental health expertise to more than 60 schools in the region from next year, benefiting some 24,000 pupils and their teachers.

Helen Thompson, director of families, children and young people’s services and learning disability services at LPT said: “As well as supporting individual pupils who are struggling with their emotional health so that they are better placed to achieve their educational potential, the MHSTs will help schools develop whole-school approaches to positive mental health. They will also connect children, young people and families with other community-based services and sources of support. It’s a really exciting and important programme, and one that will make a really positive difference for children and young people locally.”

The three local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for LLR led a successful application to be part of the third wave of implementation of this national initiative, and LPT has recruited 12 Education Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs) who have started their training at the University of Northampton this week. The EMHPs will work across selected primary, secondary and special schools in three geographical areas, each with a specific focus that responds to identified local need: In Leicester City the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) will support children and young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to access mental health support; in North West Leicestershire/Hinckley and Bosworth the team will specifically target those with poor school attendance or from low income families, and in Melton and Rutland the team will ensure mental health support for children and young people from military families, and those from deprived backgrounds.

Rachel Scott and Becky Ward are two of the EMHPs who have just started their training. Rachel, who formerly worked for the children’s hospital school at LPT’s specialist child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) inpatient facility said: “This role is so needed, and I’m hopeful that the MHSTs will significantly help to reduce the number of inpatient admissions. I’m really excited to get started and gain my qualification as an EMHP.”

Former Healthy Child Programme practitioner, Becky added: I’m really thankful to have been given the opportunity to join this amazing new team. In these troubling times, looking after our mental health is more important than ever. The MHSTs are going to benefit so many children, young people and their families. I can’t wait to start giving them the support they need and helping to make a positive difference to their lives.”

Schools that have agreed to be training placement providers will benefit from the additional mental health support provided by the EMHPs in school from January 2021, and all three MHSTs will be fully operational by the end of next year.

Dr Gopi Boora, GP and clinical lead for children’s health for the three LLR CCGs, said: “We were delighted to secure the national funding that has allowed us to commission this important service. The MHSTs will provide vital additional capacity in the system, working alongside existing sources of support such as school nursing, educational psychiatry and the voluntary sector, to provide early interventions for issues such as mild to moderate anxiety. Their input will prevent these conditions from getting worse, thereby reducing pressure on acute and specialist NHS mental health services. Following this initial phase, the programme will continue to be fully funded by the CCGs and hopefully extended to further schools in the region.”