The Design Hack: Innovating Mental Health Provision in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Organisations with responsibility for mental health provision across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have united with individuals who have lived experience of accessing mental health support to explore ideas to improve services using a new innovative way of working.

The Design Hack week took place from 18th to 22nd November 2019 and provided an opportunity for mental health service users and staff (representing organisations including CPSL Mind, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, the SUN Network and the Care Network) to research, design, prototype and test an idea within one week! This way of working is based on the book ‘Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days’ which is used by Google to keep their products at the cutting edge of their industry.

The Design Hack week was the first time this sprint process has been used in relation to mental health services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and it proved to be successful in generating important conversations and connections. The week was split with a different focus each day – the first set aside for sharing real-life experiences of services from those with lived experience of accessing support and those working in roles across a variety of mental health organisations and commissioning bodies. David, an attendee with lived experience of accessing support, said “It was really valuable to get so many different perspectives together in the same room speaking about the same stuff at the same time”.

David joined the Design Hack week as part of his recovery to share his experiences of navigating mental health services. An important element of his story was his difficulty in accessing the most appropriate support for his personal situation first time and this was echoed in others’ experiences. Therefore, the key focus of the week was to create a ‘right door, every time’ system-wide approach for mental health service users using the remaining four days of the week.

The second and third days involved discussing, selecting and designing ideas to promote a successful ‘right door, every time’ approach before the fourth day was spent developing a prototype of the chosen idea. On the final day, the Design Hack invited participants to test the idea using role-play. Allan Hughes, our Co-Production Lead, said “By the end of the week I left feeling valued and connected knowing everyone does want to work together to make the system better”. For David, the Design Hack week was his first venture into volunteering and he said “For me in my recovery it was a big big step forward. I was relieved that lived experience was not just included to tick a box and I’m really looking forward to future volunteer projects.”

Although there is further work to be done in implementing ideas and findings from the Design Hack, David believes “it has laid a really good foundation” and there have already been positive outcomes from the week. One of which is that David and other participants have joined the Co-Production Team at CPSL Mind after Allan Hughes, Co-Production Lead, was impressed by their “fantastic input”.

Volunteers and staff with lived experience of mental health difficulties contribute to all areas of our work at CPSL Mind including service design, strategy and influencing the direction of the charity. Our Co-Production Team enables members to use their experiences and insight to create positive change alongside mental health professionals to make a real impact to people’s lives.

If you’re interested in sharing your experiences and contributing to co-production at CPSL Mind please email