Specialist mental health service for students begins work in Greater Manchester

The launch of a specialist NHS Service in Greater Manchester to help university students achieve their ambitions and receive the help they need to overcome significant mental illness took place at The Whitworth Art Gallery today (18 November).

The Greater Manchester university student mental health service pilot provides expert support for students who have complex health needs – giving them timely access to professional help for conditions including psychosis, depression, personality disorders and eating disorders.

It is intended to meet the increasing mental health needs of university students and prevent them ‘falling between the cracks’ of university and NHS services at a time when they are often away from the support they may get at home.

Around 500 students a year are expected to use the £1.6m service, which is the result of a unique partnership in England between Greater Manchester’s universities, the RNCM and the city region’s NHS. The service is provided by Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust from a main clinic in the heart of the University of Manchester’s Oxford Road campus and satellite locations in Salford and Bolton.

The staffing team includes a consultant psychiatrist, a consultant psychologist, psychological therapists and mental health nurses. Around 40 students have already been seen by the service since the beginning of the autumn term. Additional group therapy is provided by mental health charity 42nd Street, while the Sick! Festival will also provide arts-based events to involve students.

Greater Manchester is using devolution to rethink and re-prioritise mental health support for young people.

We recently became the first place to publish waiting time information for children and young people’s mental health, and introduced independent counselling into schools with our ground-breaking mental health support programme. We are now becoming the first place to introduce a new way of supporting university students.

Our unique devolution deal gives us the ability to rethink the way we help young people navigate an increasingly complex world. The transition to university life can be tough for many students, with around one in five 16-24 year olds experiencing depression or anxiety, so I’m pleased that Greater Manchester is taking a national lead when it comes to mental health provision for students.

With one of the largest university populations in the country here in Greater Manchester, we have a collective duty to ensure that compassionate, responsive mental health services are available to all who need them, whenever they need them. When things are tough, we want everyone who lives, works, and studies in Greater Manchester to have access to the best possible support and guidance. This kind of service has the potential to make a real difference for our students, and I hope it can become a model for other places to follow. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham 

Students have reported finding it difficult to access NHS mental health services away from home. This may be because they are not registered with a GP practice, they do not know where to ask for help, because the wait time for an appointment means it falls during a holiday period, or they may have moved address during or before treatment.

The universities and the city region’s NHS agreed to create the service in order to help students to flourish and achieve their academic potential, while avoiding problems such as dropping out. Students will receive a standard assessment from their university’s welfare service and, if appropriate, they will be referred on for more specialist intervention at the new centre.

Training to be a professional musician takes dedication, commitment and sheer hard work. This, together with the day-to-day challenges associated with student life, means it is more important than ever that we provide the right support when it is most needed. We are extremely proud to be part of this exciting new partnership which we believe will have a positive impact on the mental health of our students. Professor Linda Merrick, RNCM Principal 

As the mental health of a student improves, they will also be managed and supported by their university’s welfare service when the student has been discharged from NHS treatment.


18 November 2019