The NHS national Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences, Matt Whitty will visit Leicester on 29 November to learn how two initiatives that started in our region, have been adopted across the NHS and are now benefiting millions of people throughout the country.

He will see the innovations in action and meet the inspirational NHS staff at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust who are using the new technologies to help transform lives.

Matt Whitty (who is also Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative) will visit the ADHD service in Leicester on 29 November to see a demonstration of a new digital test that is significantly reducing the time parents have to wait for their child to be diagnosed with ADHD.

He will also visit the award-winning ChatHealth – a safe and secure health messaging service developed by staff at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT), that allows users to have conversations with health professionals via their mobile devices about issues including mental health, sexual health and general health concerns. Originally available to 65,000 teens in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, the service is now available to over 6 million people nationwide.

Matt Whitty, NHS England Director of Innovation and Life Sciences and Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative:

“Through research and innovation we can  improve patient outcomes and reduce health inequalities, and so it is important to celebrate and spotlight their impact as we hope to do so today. Already over 1.4 million patients have benefited from our programmes. Ground-breaking commercial partnerships are supporting the introduction of innovative new treatments for cardiovascular disease and cancer and we have programmes such as the Small Business Research Initiative helping the NHS develop technologies that support the NHS’s net zero ambitions. It’s a great pleasure to visit the East Midlands AHSN and meet those teams helping to get some of the NHS’s most promising healthcare innovations to patients faster.”

Angela Hillery, chief executive of LPT said: “We are proud to showcase the innovative work of our teams at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. These are two exceptional examples of how our clinicians are pioneering solutions to improve access to healthcare that can be adopted for the benefit of many more people nationwide. Thanks to the East Midlands AHSN our Award winning ChatHealth innovation is now supporting more than six million people across the country, which has been particularly invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have recently launched a ChatAutism and ChatMentalHealth service and continue to innovate this product for other audiences.”

Please see below for background to these two innovations.

More than 20,000 children assessed for ADHD during the pandemic

More than 20,000 people (aged 6-18 years) have benefitted from an objective assessment for ADHD between April 2020 and October 2021 under a national programme which uses digital innovation – QbTest – to speed up the time to diagnosis.

Pioneered in the East Midlands, QbTest is an approved computer-supported objective test which measures attention, motor activity and impulsivity – the core symptoms of ADHD.

The results are instantly analysed and presented in a report which compares a patients’ results against a normative dataset based on age and gender.

ADHD practitioners then use information from the QbTest report alongside their clinical assessment to inform their decision whether the young person has ADHD or not.

Dr Neeta Kulkarni, Consultant Paediatrician, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust said: “ADHD is a common disorder in children and young people and can lead to difficulties in a number of different settings including in school, with friends and at home.

“Timely access to assessment and treatment for young people with ADHD is incredibly important to prevent secondary problems developing and to ensure young people achieve their full potential.

“It is also important for young people to know if they do not have ADHD to ensure they access the right support for their needs.”

There are several studies that demonstrate its benefits in aiding diagnosis including an evaluation led by the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network which found time to diagnostic decision was reduced by five months.

As part of the Focus ADHD National Programme, the 15 Academic Health Science Networks across England are supporting clinical services to improve their ADHD assessment pathway with the implementation of QbTest.

As well as the positive impact on young people and families, the Focus ADHD programme can have additional benefits for NHS services by increasing clinical confidence and understanding and increasing efficiencies in the ADHD pathway by reducing the number of appointments needed for assessment and decision.

Nicole McGlennon, Managing Director, East Midlands AHSN said: “The findings of our research in the East Midlands showed that using the test helped clinicians to significantly reduce the time to diagnosis, helping families get the right help for their children, faster.

“During the pandemic a number of NHS services were understandably unable to hold face to face clinics – however, the ADHD service was able to continue to support thousands of families, helping to keep down waiting lists, improve treatment and allow more time for clinicians to concentrate on complex cases.

“It is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our fantastic NHS staff across the East Midlands that this world-beating innovation has been rolled out throughout England.”

Watch the video to see how it has impacted one family’s life.

50% of all messages from young people to text helpline were mental health related during the COVID-19 pandemic

A text messaging service that provides health advice for young people found that 50% of enquiries from young people were for support with their emotional health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ChatHealth, a safe and secure messaging service that allows users to have conversations with health professionals via their mobiles, was developed by staff at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.

It has proved so effective that it has been adopted across England and is now available to 2.8 million young people.

The service provides quick and confidential advice on issues from bullying and stress to sexual health. Health teams adopting ChatHealth find it significantly increases the number of young people they can reach. Texting also engages teenagers less comfortable speaking face-to-face about what they feel are embarrassing or sensitive issues, especially young males.

Caroline Palmer, Clinical lead for the ChatHealth service said: “Young people told us they wanted a more discreet way to get help, without fear of judgement. Myself and my colleagues at LPT worked with young people to develop ChatHealth to allow them to have safe and secure conversations with health professionals about all kinds of health issues.”

ChatHealth has been an extremely useful service for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic –  enabling health professionals to continue reaching young people when schools were closed, with 50% of all messages from young people seeking support with their mental health, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nationally, over the past year more than 60,000 messaging conversations were had between service users and health professionals across a range of services.

Developed by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust and launched in 2013, it was initially available to pupils in three secondary schools, but with support from the England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) – which operate as the innovation arm of the NHS – it quickly spread nationwide and is currently available to 2.8 million young people (around half of all teenagers) across 60% of school nursing services in the UK.

Nicole McGlennon, Managing Director of East Midlands AHSN said: “We recognised the massive potential that ChatHealth could have for young people and worked with the inspirational staff at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust to help quickly spread it across England.

“Our region should take great pride in the fact that this East Midlands innovation is now helping young people in every area of England. The significant increase in demand during the pandemic shows just how important this service is to our young people as they try to cope with the unpreceded impact the pandemic is having on their lives.”

Health visiting teams that support new parents are also using the technology and practices. Many teams are also opening up the messaging helpline to parents of children aged up to 19-year-olds, making it available to support over 2.6 million babies, children and young people.