Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Liverpool
Creating equitable access to new mental health treatments
One in four people in England will face mental health challenges in their lifetime and new treatments that could transform their lives are slow to be approved. This is in part because setting up late-stage trials takes so long, and it can be difficult to recruit participants. What’s more, the research is currently focused on a limited number of centres in the UK which further limits access to trials.
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust (Mersey Care) and the University of Liverpool decided to change this with their ambitious plans for a new Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre (M-RIC) in Liverpool.
We worked with Mersey Care, one of the largest trusts in the UK providing physical health and mental health services, and the University of Liverpool, one of the UK’s leading research-intensive higher education institutions, to develop a blueprint for M-RIC. The aim was to support and accelerate late-stage trials for promising new treatments. Crucial to this was the investment case that resulted in Mersey Care and University of Liverpool being granted £10.5 million in funding to get the centre up and running. The centre is already hosting its first trial, testing a model that could be adopted in regions across England.
Thanks to the M-RIC, Mersey Care is getting people effective treatment. This will not only reduce waiting lists, but also help transform the lives of patients and their families.
- We worked closely with Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool to support them with preparation for the launch of M-RIC to accelerate late-stage trials for new mental health treatments.
- Our experts contributed valuable resource to support Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool in securing £10.5 million in government funding from the Office for Life Sciences and the National Institute for Health and Care Research as part of the UK Mental Health Mission.
- We collaborated with R&D staff at Mersey Care on reimagining the future of trial recruitment processes, and our team designed a process which enabled the centre to recruit participants for its first trial in just four months.
- We co-developed a Trusted Research Environment – a data platform that ensures access to pseudonymised health and care data.
Finding new ways to transform mental health
In Cheshire and Merseyside, just over 80,000 people are receiving medication for long-term depression. And long waits can have a profound, negative impact on people’s lives, often leading to worsening symptoms brought on by a lack of hope for a swift intervention. It also has detrimental effects for their families and society, with implications for employment, education, policing, and social services. Getting the chance to try new mental health treatments isn’t easy, especially for people living in deprived areas under-served by research investment, such as the North of England.
Developing a blueprint for national impact
When the Government announced £500 million to back its Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool saw an opportunity. Their vision was to launch an innovation centre to run late-stage clinical trials, which in turn would mean more people getting the opportunity to participate.
We worked with Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool, to make it happen. The new model creates a blueprint for health authorities around the country to follow and equalise access to late-stage trials.
Where healthcare and life sciences collide
Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool knew of our experience at the intersection of healthcare and life sciences including our work with the UK Government delivering life-saving ventilators in record time. Through our involvement in the national COVID-19 vaccine programme, we also have unique insights into accelerating the development of new pathways to make innovative treatments available faster.
End-to-end: from securing funding to enabling first trials
To launch, we ran a feasibility study to explore the potential for M-RIC. The case was made, and Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool were granted £10.5 million in funding to realise the vision.
Our model for the centre creates a single ‘front door’ for organisations everywhere. So, a start-up in the north will get the same opportunity to collaborate on a late-stage trial as a major pharmaceutical company in the south. It also gives GPs and mental health charities around the country an equal opportunity to get their patients and clients involved.
To facilitate this, our digital and data experts worked with Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool to develop a trusted research environment to link health data and analysis. This will do everything from alerting GPs to when trials are available in their regions to identifying eligible cohorts for trials.
Bringing new treatments on stream faster
The trial process we designed – suitable for everything from innovative software solutions and medical technical devices to new drugs – cuts the time it takes to get new approaches through late-stage trials. It does this by accelerating the recruitment of participants and by promoting rapid prototyping and continuous learning.
The target is to run six large trials a year within three years. Starting small and scaling fast is key. The lab is already hosting its first trial to assess the effectiveness of an add-on treatment for people with treatment-resistant depression. It took just four months to recruit participants for this trial, a process that usually takes years.
Tracking impact, transforming lives
Together with Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool, we developed an approach to track both the direct and system-wide benefits of research conducted through the new Centre. These are expected to be significant.
Getting people onto an effective treatment path for their condition will not only resolve some of the societal challenges, but it will also help reduce waiting lists and demand for evidence-based interventions easing pressure on NHS budgets.
The impact will also be personal. For people struggling with mental health, new improved treatments offer new possibilities – to prosper in employment, to see their children thrive, to feel well in their everyday lives – whatever region they live in.