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University of Liverpool: Partnership delivers improved access and support for student mental health services

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Students in Liverpool are benefitting from improved mental health support, thanks to a partnership between universities and NHS services across the city.

The findings are published today as part of an independent evaluation by the Office for Students (OfS) of its Mental Health Challenge Competition (MHCC). The £14.5 million programme, which ran from June 2019 to July 2022, sought to deliver a ‘step change in mental health outcomes for all students’ and funded 10 projects across the country.

The ‘Working in Partnership to Improve Student Mental Health’ project brought together the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Mersey Care, the Innovation Agency, Brownlow Health, and the student unions, to develop an integrated model of support for student mental health.

As part of the ‘Liverpool Model’ a new Student Liaison Service has helped 429 students to access the right type of mental health support by improving essential links between university and NHS services. The service provides consenting students who present at urgent care services with brief interventions, signposting or referrals, and allows for student cases to be discussed between NHS and university teams to ensure that care is arranged with the most appropriate pathway.

Additionally, 299 students have been able to access a new service for self-harm called U-COPE. Qualitative evidence gathered from students who accessed U-COPE, through a student research project, suggests that the service has helped to speed up access to vital support.

The evaluation found that the Liverpool Model has improved the support available to students presenting with more severe or enduring mental health needs. The Liverpool Model approach is now being used to help inform developing partnerships between HE providers and local NHS services in other parts of the country.

Project lead Dr Paula Harrison, Director of Student Administration and Support at the University of Liverpool, said: “Students have really valued being able to access support locally at the University, and that service has been really responsive to their needs. We’re really delighted with the outcomes of the project work we’ve been undertaking in Liverpool and the partnerships that we’ve formed already. We’re pleased that we are going to be able to extend the work that we’ve been doing. The partnership has now been extended to all the other Higher Education Institutions in Liverpool, opening up all of the services to the 65,000 higher education students in the city. We are working on plans to embed the service in the local health infrastructure.”

The OfS evaluation found that the wider MHCC programme led to strengthened strategic partnerships between universities, colleges and local partners and NHS services; made services more accessible; and improved the range of preventative and proactive mental health support available to students.

Chair of the OfS, Lord Wharton, said: “Supporting students in relation to their mental health is important if they are to achieve their full potential and be well equipped for a successful life after graduation.

“Our evaluation shows that students have seen tangible benefits from these projects, including improved access to support and strengthened partnerships between universities and colleges and other organisations for more effective support.”