Child and adolescent mental health services in a devolved healthcare system: a qualitative exploration of sustainable practices

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Background: The transference of research evidence into routine healthcare practice remains poorly understood. This includes understanding the prerequisites of longer-term viability. The present study investigated the sustainable practices of GM i-THRIVE, a programme which reconceptualizes mental health services for children and young people (CYP) in Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. We aimed to establish whether a sustainable future was likely, and to identify areas of focus to improve that likelihood. Methods: The NHS Sustainability Model, typically completed as a questionnaire measure, was converted into interview questions. The responses of nine professionals, from a variety of roles across the CYP mental health workforce, were explored using inductive thematic framework analysis. Selected participants completed the original questionnaire. Results: Five themes (communication; support; barriers to implementation; past, present, and future: the implementation journey; and the nuances of GM i-THRIVE) and 21 subthemes formed the final thematic framework. Relationships with senior leaders and with colleagues across the workforce were seen as important. Leaders’ roles in providing meaning and fit were emphasized. Whilst training delivered the programme’s aims well, monitoring its dissemination was challenging. Widespread issues with dedicating sufficient time to implementation were raised. The flexibility of the programme, which can be applied in multiple ways, was discussed positively. This flexibility links to the idea of GM i-THRIVE as a mindset change, and the uniqueness of this style of intervention was discussed. To varying degrees, themes were supported by responses to the quantitative measure, although several limitations to the use of the questionnaire were discovered. Consequently, they were used to infer conclusions to a lesser degree than originally intended. Conclusions: Professionals involved with GM i-THRIVE reported many elements that indicate a positive future for the programme. However, they suggested that more attention should be given to embedding the core concepts of the model at the current stage of implementation. Limitations relating to its use within our study are discussed, but we conclude that the NHS Sustainability Model is a suitable way of guiding qualitative implementation research. It is especially valuable for localized interventions. The constraints of our small sample size on transferability are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2023


  • Child and adolescent mental health
  • Implementation science
  • Implementation sustainability
  • Mixed methods
  • Thematic framework analysis


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