A pilot of an out of hours telephony service for mental health enquiries

South West PeninsulaMental Health
Start Date: 19 Oct 2016 End Date: 28 Feb 2017

PenCHORD - A pilot of an out of hours telephony service for mental health enquiries


Devon Partnership Trust (DPT) is working towards the creation of a single point of access telephony system. The first stage of this process is to implement an out of hours telephone support service to people in crisis, operating seven days a week 8pm-8am. This first stage is being piloted from 8th September 2016.

The service was extended in November 2016 to include operating 24 hours on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, with a report on the pilot due at the end of March 2017. Following a successful pilot of the out of hours system the feasibility of operating 24 hours, seven days a week will be assessed and informed by this project.

Project Aims

The aim of this project is to support the first pilot stage of the new system by modelling the system and ensuring it can support the expected increases in demand over time.

The research objectives are to:

  • Determine if the system will be capable of supporting 24-hour weekend coverage and then the planned 24-hour coverage over seven days a week, informing future stages of SPA implementation;
  • Identify which sources are responsible for demand;
  • Ensure efficient patient/call flow meeting the target of calls being answered within 60 seconds;
  • Help predict resourcing needs as expansion of the service continues;
  • Inform the operational implementation of the SPA service through collaborative working;
  • Test major changes to the system as the need arises.

Project Activity

Thus far the initial discrete event simulation of the DPT out of hours telephony system has been created and a set of scenarios have been run to assess the impact of increased demand on system function. These scenarios show that at the level of demand seen in the first two months of the pilot the system is operating well within capacity. As demand gradually increases call handler utilisation will quickly double and as a result the time taken to answer calls will increase resulting in more dropped calls and longer waiting times.

These initial results will be presented to the collaborators at DPT and desired performance levels will be determined. Based on these performance targets a further series of scenarios will be run using the latest available data. These scenarios will test what resourcing is required to maintain the desired performance levels as demand increases.

Anticipated Outputs

The modelling and resulting reports will be used to inform the resourcing expectations for the system as its scope and demand increase. The findings of this project will be included in the reporting of the pilot phase of the telephony system to DPT. 

Dr Sean Manzi