Community Transformation Programme realist evaluation

What is this project?

In September 2019 NHS England, NHS Improvement and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health launched The Community Mental Health Framework for Adults and Older Adults.

The aim of this framework is to eliminate the kind of silo working that results in people having difficulty accessing services, experiencing long waiting lists, and being passed around the system or finding they do not meet the criteria or threshold to receive support.

The vision of this document is to create a ‘place-based’ system of mental health care such that the needs of communities of people are met through NHS services working in partnership with each other and with services provided through the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector. Rethink produced a useful guide to inspire providers to work differently in response to this community transformation programme.

Twelve NHS sites across England were given funding as pilots in 2019 to begin work on implementing the Framework. McPin is working as part of a consortium with three of these sites (East London, Somerset and Hertfordshire and West Essex), along with the University of Plymouth, for one year to learn about the process of implementing these community transformation programmes.

We are using realistic evaluation methodology to understand, at each site, what parts of their transformation plans are working well, and which are not working as well. We have planned three cycles of work so we can feed-back learning quickly, with the aim of supporting changes to strategy and practice within the year.  

Why is this project important?

The NHS is a large and complicated system. We know from previous work that it is very difficult to change systems, and that sometimes changes that are made have unintended consequences.

The Community Transformation Programme will be rolled out further across England in 2021, so it is important to understand how different NHS organisations decide to make changes in response to the ambitions within the Framework document, and how successful they are in actually putting these plans into practice.

At McPin we are committed to improving the lives of people who experience challenges to their mental health through doing high quality research in which the voices of those people is central.

It is inevitable that changes that are made to services will have an impact on the lives of people who are supported by them. For this reason, it is important to understand what changes different NHS organisations choose to make, how they make changes to work in partnership with their VCSE colleagues, and what impact these changes have on people who experience challenges to their mental health.

How are McPin and people with lived experience of mental health problems involved in the project?

We have a team of peer researchers who are working on this project as ‘researchers in residence’. This means that we have employed people who have their own experiences of mental health difficulties, or of being supported by mental health services as researchers.

They are based within the consortium’s NHS organisations, and act as part of the local teams there. We have adopted this approach as it allows them to feed learning directly back into those organisations as they are in the process of making changes to their local systems.

Our researchers in residence will also work with people using services and carers within the sites to understand their perspectives and to feed them into the work of the consortium.

Who are the partners in the consortium?

We are working with a number of partners across this project, including NHS England, University of Plymouth and the three study sites.

Where can I find more information?

For more information on this study please contact the project coordinator Rose Thompson, at