Mental health risk assessment process wins Cardiff University award

An initiative for mental health service users has won an innovation award.

Cardiff University’s School of Psychology worked with Welsh Government to reduce the risk of suicide or physical harm to others for mental health service users.

The resulting Wales Applied Risk Research Network (WARRN) is helping to ensure a consistent approach to mental health risk assessment across all Health Boards.

The WARRN’s method rejects traditional ‘tick-box’ risk scoring in favour of a ‘formulation-based’ assessment, allowing users and clinicians to work together in weighing up the factors involved. It has led to unified Wales-wide training, providing staff with skills, terminology and techniques which are transferable across the seven Boards through a cascading ‘training the trainers’ approach.

Developed with the National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare in Wales, as well as Professor Nicola Gray of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, the new process has picked up the Innovation in Healthcare Award at this year’s Cardiff University Innovation and Impact Awards.

Lead academic, Professor Robert Snowden, School of Psychology, said: “WARRN has been adopted by all seven Welsh Health Boards. Staff are trained in skills and procedures which are transferable across all Boards, ensuring consistency of approach and the efficient movement of staff. Our ‘training the trainers’ approach has also led to considerable savings.

“Having WARRN trainers embedded within their own services and Health Boards gives them local knowledge and access to local networks of clinicians, thereby enhancing the quality of the training delivered.”

Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said: “The adoption of a formulation-based risk assessment, in place of the more commonly used tick-box process, represents a highly innovative approach. A consistent, formulation-based approach to risk assessment has helped service users and clinicians better understand roles and responsibilities in managing risk.

“The WARRN has really helped to drive up standards of care in mental health services across Wales.”

Whilst WARRN won the award for healthcare innovation, the Network is now in a “people’s competition” against the other award winners (from business to engineering, etc.). Voting is open until 11:00 on Wednesday 21 June.

Matt Pearce