The Lucy Project lands mental health award

12 Nov 2021, 2:46 p.m.

The Lucy Booth mental health, drop-in centre

Last month, part of Great Ormond Street Hospital's (GOSH) Psychological and Mental Health Services department scooped the Mental Health Award at the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Awards, for a piece of work called the Lucy Project. We're really proud of our colleagues and we'd like to explain what the Lucy Project is about.

What is the Lucy Project?

GOSH drew inspiration from the popular cartoon spread ‘Peanuts’ from the 1950s by Charles M Schulz. In it, featured a character called Lucy who offers immediate psychiatric help to her school friends and neighbours, and this idea formed the basis of our Lucy Project.

The project began a few years ago, back in 2019, as part of a pioneering new study, where GOSH launched a drop-in centre providing accessible, low-intensity early intervention services for patients and families concerned about their mental health. For the study, researchers from GOSH and UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH) set up a drop-in centre, named ‘the Lucy Booth’ after the beloved Peanuts’ characters' stand, in the hospital’s reception area.

Catch up with our news story from 2019.

We know that paediatric patients being treated for long-term physical health conditions (LTCs) have elevated mental health needs. Access to mental health support is often convoluted particularly for children with LTCs due to complexity of need and appointment burden. We also wanted to intervene early to prevent worsening emotional and behavioural problems and their adverse impact on well-being, family, friends, and school. A possible solution was to offer families the option to self-refer. We developed and evaluated the provision of drop-in ‘low intensity’ psychological interventions for mental health problems in patients with LTCs and their families at GOSH.

Watch the BMJ film on the Lucy Project from the awards presentation

Key benefits

‘Drop-in’ meant almost instant access to someone to talk to, meaning access to services without lengthy referrals. ‘Low intensity’ meant the most effective, but least intrusive, time consuming and expensive intervention. Where mental health needs were more complex, we provided signposting and referral to relevant services.

We found significant positive impact of attending the drop-in mental health centre on symptom (Cohen’s d=0.22) and quality of life measures (Cohen’s d=0.55) at six-month follow-up. Parental anxiety and sibling symptoms were also positively addressed. Patients and their families found the drop-in centre highly acceptable and reported a positive experience. Health economics analysis indicated value for money.

Patient and consultant view

Here’s a clutch of testimonials from a patient and our GOSH consultants.

I’d say I think it’s really important and I’d say by being one of the lucky people who got help quickly it’s made a real difference and I think that it should be available to everyone.

Patient view

“Please can you pass on my thanks to your team who have been brilliant at supporting our families via the Lucy project.” “A phenomenal project, Lucy booth helped so many.” “Thank you so much for your help with our patients. I know many of mine have been very grateful for the support they have received.”

Consultants' views

The team is delighted that it has won this award and hope it will inspire other general hospitals to think innovatively about mental health provision for their patients.

For more information on the Lucy Project from the awards night and all the other award winners see the BMJ Awards website.

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