Asking for help with your mental health is incredibly difficult. Once you have decided to seek help it’s critical that access to treatment is as simple and easy as possible. Snook ran a 2-week design sprint with ThinkAction to prototype and implement improvements to their ‘Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) services in the Southeast of England. IAPT is an NHS programme that aims to help millions of people across the country suffering from mild anxiety or depression to access free psychological therapies. AddAction‘s subsidiary ThinkAction currently delivers four NHS contracts for IAPT.
Although ThinkAction was receiving a high number of referrals to their IAPT services, they were losing many potential clients before they attended their first therapy appointment. This meant that many people were missing out on therapy, the service was becoming unsustainable, and commissioners were pressuring ThinkAction for improvement. Snook was asked to run a two-week sprint to design, test, and implement changes to ThinkAction’s IAPT service. The sprint aimed to improve user experience, increase conversions from referral to appointment, and facilitate better treatment delivery.
AddAction and ThinkAction have seen the value and impact of user research and prototyping. It has helped them to listen, adapt, and respond to people’s needs whilst keeping an eye on the big picture.
They also learnt that their current systems are opaque – not just to their clients but also to their staff. They recognised the importance of helping their clients to understand what is going to happen next and what they can expect from their service. They also recognised that they need to help clients feel more in control of their treatment.
We started by mapping the current user journey with staff and clients to look for the barriers and pain points that they both experienced. Building off this, we worked at speed to prototype improvements, including new booking systems, referral forms, waiting lists, and automated communications. We implemented changes to the website to make the service offer clearer and updated the phone systems to ensure that callers are directed to the information and features that they need, whilst reducing the strain on administration staff.
We also co-created a roadmap with ThinkAction staff that outlines future improvements to the service. The roadmap suggests a range of improvements that aim to give clients greater control over their treatment whilst improving operational efficiency.
As a result of the project, ThinkAction has made changes to their online registration form to make it simpler to complete and more intuitive. They have also introduced a new booking process to reduce waiting lists and assessment time. As a result, the IAPT service is starting to see an approximately 90% attendance rate from appointments booked online, up from 60%, meaning that roughly 700 to 800 more people are entering treatment each month. Furthermore, the work has been recognised by NHS England and NHS Improvement as examples of best practice.