I can recall one case in late 2019 when I was allocated a young person with a learning disability. I was trying to locate one doctor with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) experience, along with a doctor with a specialism in learning disabilities, all morning. As we didn’t have a co-located Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) hub or service at that time, I found myself contacting various AMHPs all over the county, trying to locate the right doctors, with the required skills and knowledge, to undertake what was a very complex and difficult assessment. It took me over three hours to find the doctors and due to the time spent searching, neither were available until late afternoon for assessment. This meant a protracted delay which was a further stressor on the family and ultimately, on the person being assessed. This was a very tiring day for everyone, but we reached the right outcome for the person in the end.
When I found out we were moving to S12 Solutions, I was initially apprehensive, the use of apps and other tech hadn’t always been very well received by other AMHPs or doctors. However, being rather tech savvy, I was secretly excited about the concept of being able to find doctors in real time and book MHA assessments via the app. I’ve been using the service now for well over two months and have made new contacts with various doctors in my local area. I can honestly say S12 is by far, the best AMHP app available in England. Not only is it streamlining my workload as full time AMHP, I’m also able to source the right doctors for my service users.
One particular case last week sticks in my mind. I was allocated Barry (not his real name). Barry was new to mental health services, having recently moved to the area following a breakdown in his previous placement from another authority. Barry had been supported in care for a number of years with a global learning delay and mild learning disability. He was only recently diagnosed with autism, which the team felt explained a lot about Barry’s needs. Unfortunately, community services were not able to respond quickly enough to Barry’s adapting care and support needs. Having read the referral and upon having a discussion with his care coordinator/lead practitioner and his mother, it was agreed that Barry needed a Mental Health Act assessment. I recall considering how best to approach the assessment with Barry’s particular needs in mind and having due regard to chapter 20 of the Code of Practice. I wanted to ensure that, as far as possible, the right doctors were selected for his assessment. I wanted to fully explore whether other community care options were truly a viable alternative to detention under the act.
I was pleasantly surprised, when entering the required details of an ‘autism specialist’ to find Dr A who was only 5 miles down the road. I had never met or heard of Dr A before, and upon contacting her, was overjoyed to hear that it was her day off and that she was available all day for an assessment. I then changed my search to ‘learning disabilities’ and having identified that Barry responds more positively to female carers and professionals, I was again delighted to find Dr B, another available s12 associate specialist doctor with expertise in learning disabilities. Dr B was also available, only 15 miles away, and to my surprise, had never worked with Dr A before.
Having both Dr A and Dr B took such a weight off my shoulders. I recall feeling very reassured that Dr A had run courses alongside other healthcare professionals, around the alternatives to long stay admission (or even admission to assessment and treatment units). Dr A had only recently signed up to the S12 Solutions app, and prior to this, had rarely undertaken Mental Health Act assessment work. The assessment was completed in what I would deem to be record time, considering that I spent a fraction of my preparation searching for doctors. But that’s not the point really, what I’m so happy with is that the time saved in searching for doctors meant I could get out and be with the service user for longer. This meant that I had a real holistic picture of Barry’s journey and with the additional time to spare, it allowed for me to meet with Barry for longer to build the essential rapport needed prior to a difficult Mental Health Act assessment.
Had I not used the S12 app, reflecting back to the difficult case in 2019, I could see myself being sat for hours phoning various doctors, who had once done an assessment for a colleague AMHP. Prior to the app, we may have also been more inclined to contact those doctors that were more readily available as we did not have had the ability to search for those specialist mental health skills. In the end, between the care workers, Dr A, Dr B and most importantly Barry, we were able to come up with a unique alternative care plan, potentially avoiding an inappropriate admission. In short, I think the app is a great addition to 21st century social work and AMHP practice in a busy, evolving, and demanding world.
Gary Spencer-Humphrey is a Senior Practitioner/AMHP working in a dedicated AMHP Hub in the South of England. He is also a trustee and judge of the Social Worker of the Year Awards. You can follow Gary on twitter: @SocialWorkerGaz