18 October 2023

Newham Talking Therapies – QI project to increase the numbers of referrals from young black men aged 18-25

By Rachel Glover – Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner

The journey began in 2021 and was inspired by a service audit completed using the Black Asian Minority Ethnic BABCP positive practice guideline, which evaluated best practices across IAPT services with a focus on race. The audit highlighted a lack of representation from Black males in Newham, specifically those aged 18-25. Despite making up 18% of the population, they only accounted for an average of just 1% of referrals. Conversely, data demonstrated that this group are significantly over-represented in secondary care and six times more likely than young white men to be sectioned for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act. 

The project highlighted a gap and the need for changes in psychological services to appeal to and be a source of support to young black men. Whilst trying to understand the issue, the three key themes identified were accessibility, relevance and trust/stigma. I also saw the impact of language whilst working on the project; to ensure that we do not blame the individual and that services take responsibility. 

Figure 1: A driver diagram to illustrate the drivers and change ideas developed for the project’s aim to improve access to the service.

The team are testing change ideas including the handing out of protein shaker bottles at Newham sports centre, and combs at local hairdressers. These items have a QR code on the side that, when activated, sends the user to the Newham Talking Therapies social media page. We have been able to test these change ideas through our working relationships we have built with local organisations during this project. We continue to study the data to find out whether these changes are having an effect upon our referrals. We look forward to testing and refining more change ideas in the coming weeks. Furthermore, we are learning from research in this area, through recently working with a Phd student who has looked into the experiences of Ghanaian and Nigerian men (aged 16-25).

The project will hopefully mean that more young black males in the borough are more aware and comfortable referring themselves to Talking Therapies. In turn, we hope they are provided suitable interventions within primary services, and if other secondary care is required, they have a healthy understanding of psychological support. We hope the project has begun gradually breaking the cycle of systemic inequality for Black men.

Next for the team would be to continue to reinforce and build on the change ideas that have worked and implement some of the others that require time and attention, such as developing a more representative workforce. The QI team also hopes to continue implementing the improvement programme’s learnings in other service development areas and other underrepresented groups in the borough.

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