A groundbreaking initiative aimed at promoting racial equity within mental health services in Leeds has clinched the coveted title of "Mental Health Innovation of the Year" at the Health Service Journal (HSJ) awards. Synergi-Leeds, a collaborative partnership between the NHS, Public Health, and local community and voluntary sectors (VCS), was also named a finalist in the NHS Race Equality Award category.
The HSJ Awards, which celebrate outstanding contributions to healthcare nationwide, saw a record-breaking 1,456 entries this year, with Synergi-Leeds among the 223 projects and individuals making it to the final shortlist.
A Citywide Approach to Tackling Ethnic Inequalities in Mental Health
The Synergi-Leeds Partnership was established in 2017 as a joint effort between Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds City Council's Public Health team, and various VCS services. Over time, it has evolved into a thriving network of statutory and voluntary sector organizations dedicated to addressing ethnic disparities in mental health.
The partnership's approach includes co-produced 'Creative Spaces Events' that amplify the voices of individuals with lived experience, challenging stereotypes and mobilizing action. Additionally, they offer an all-age grants program that provides financial support to grassroots projects.
A significant focus of their work has been to combat the disproportionate representation of individuals from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities in crisis mental health services and under the Mental Health Act. Disturbing statistics reveal that Black individuals are over four times more likely than their white counterparts to be detained under the Mental Health Act. Moreover, people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups are overrepresented in inpatient and crisis services, less likely to receive support from a GP before admission, and less likely to be referred for psychological therapies.
Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council executive member for adult social care, public health, and active lifestyles, commended Synergi-Leeds's efforts, emphasizing the importance of providing equitable mental health support regardless of culture, background, or race.
A Dedication to Racial Equity in Mental Health
Sharon Prince, consultant psychologist at the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, hailed the recognition of the Synergi partnership as a prestigious accomplishment. She dedicated the award to Heather Nelson, chief executive of the Leeds Black Health Initiative, who passed away in July 2023 and played a crucial role in championing Synergi-Leeds from its inception.
The judges of the HSJ Awards praised the Synergi-Leeds Partnership for its innovative and ambitious approach to addressing ethnic inequalities in mental health. The partnership's comprehensive strategy, spanning the entire life course, engages individuals through creative means, challenging stereotypes, and driving collective action. Their all-age grants program has demonstrated success in supporting grassroots initiatives.
Impact and Commitment to Change
The Synergi Leeds team played a pivotal role in encouraging key organizations across the health and care sector to commit to the National Synergi Pledge, which focuses on reducing ethnic inequalities in mental health. Their efforts have sparked crucial conversations about racial equity in mental health in Leeds.
Jim Barwick, Chief executive of Leeds GP Confederation, praised Synergi for its powerful influence on senior leadership in Leeds. Sinead Cregan, Director of Development and Innovation at Inspire North, underscored the commitment to becoming more anti-racist and highlighted specific training for employees and trustees.
The National Synergi Collaborative's co-founding agency, Words of Colour, produced a 60-minute documentary on the work in Leeds, providing a deeper insight into the program's impact and initiatives.
In the first year of the grants' program, approximately 800 individuals directly benefited, with over 5,000 people engaging with projects in various ways, including 3,600 from minority ethnic backgrounds.
About the HSJ Awards
The HSJ Awards, the most prestigious accolade in UK healthcare, serve as the largest annual benchmarking and recognition program for the health sector. For over 40 years, these awards have celebrated healthcare excellence despite the sector's political, technological, and financial challenges.
Through a rigorous, transparent judging process, the HSJ Awards honor the best organizations, teams, and individuals in the NHS and the wider health sector.
Winners were unveiled during the awards ceremony at Evolution London on November 16, 2023. To learn more about the HSJ Awards, please visit their website.