John Stevens

John Stevens is a policy officer with the Older People’s Mental Health Policy Unit, Mental Health Branch, NSW Ministry of Health. His key areas of policy work include statewide Older People’s Mental Health (OPMH) benchmarking, OPMH inpatient models of care, and the statewide OPMH recovery-oriented and physical health practice improvement projects.



Title:  Leadership and collaboration: statewide physical health practice improvement for older people with a mental illness

Author(s): John Stevens1, Dr Rod McKay1, Dr Kate Jackson1, Marcelle Droulers2, Michelle Johnson3, Jade Ryall4

1NSW Ministry of Health, 2Charles Sturt University, 3Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, 4Flourish Australia

Introduction: Both leadership and collaboration are essential in addressing the so-called ‘implementation gap’ in improving the physical health of people living with mental illness. As part of its commitment to Equally Well, he NSW Ministry of Health has undertaken a statewide practice improvement project to improve the physical health of older people with mental illness. The project has adopted a ‘start where you can’ approach, leveraging state and local leadership and collaboration. The state project team provides overall guidance and project leadership to local health district (LHD) teams to bring about changes in each local health district that can then inform and give momentum to broader statewide practice change.

Method: Statewide project leadership encourages older people’s mental health (OPMH) services across NSW initiate local projects, generating an agenda for change and processes and resources to support it, and promoting collaboration. An expert steering group provides a mechanism for leadership and collaboration, and for local project champions to seek guidance and feedback on their projects and advice on challenges. The overarching project approach is supported through collaboration with targeted external partners depending on the needs of the local health districts and the nature of their projects. Some projects have partnered with international partners, some from the community managed sector and many have partnered with academics to support project design, ethics approval and publication. Establishing and managing these partnerships has been key to shaping projects, making them both more robust and more complex. This presentation will focus on how the project team has maximised engagement by managing these cross-sector and cross-local health district partnerships, encouraging all of the participating services to take a collaborative approach.

Results and findings: Currently the statewide project encompasses 11 local health districts across NSW with eleven projects all at varying stages of completion. Projects have involved collaboration between OPMH services, the university sector, community managed sector and international agencies. Effective collaboration to bring about statewide practice change is possible. Whilst the projects are in different stages of completion, this presentation will share the journey and the lessons learnt to date from this style of leadership and collaboratively.

Discussion: The complexity of managing the establishment of cross-LHD partnerships, external stakeholders partnerships and their varying interests to develop and implement innovative locally grown projects has its complexities but enriches the work significantly. This presentation will outline the statewide model of leadership and collaboration that has been developed and refined over successive practice improvement initiatives, and discuss some of the strengths and challenges of the approach. The presentation will include discussants involved in the project sharing their experiences of working collaboratively across sectors under the model.

Stevens, John 2021 05 18-min