A national project to accelerate improvements for Children and Young People’s (CYP) Mental Health (MH) care in a crisis was established in 2016. This aimed to rapidly develop and test models of MH crisis and liaison services for CYP within the eight urgent and emergency care (UEC) vanguard sites across the country.

In order to understand the impact these vanguards are having on the mental health of their localities, NHS England selected our team to conduct a national evaluation. The evaluation set out to inform and contribute to the evidence base, and to identify models/pathways that can support the spread of CYP mental health crisis and liaison services across the country.

We developed five key lines of enquiry, based on learning from Future in Mind (2015) and Five Year Forward View for mental health (2016), discussions with stakeholders and an initial review of the vanguard proposals. The team also developed an analysis framework by which to evaluate them. Through a series of semi-structured interviews, site visits, workshops, and collection of performance data, we produced a detailed quantitative and qualitative analysis, with a value equation for each site. Key learning points were highlighted from the analysis as the foundation for a guide to what works well, in order to support scalability and replication of the services across the country.

An interim report, analysing two sites, was produced in March 2017; this has been so well received by NHS England that we were asked to present the findings at a national conference on crisis care.

Sites are beginning to share learning with each other, validating the approach and the findings that the project team generated.