Maudsley Learning, with collaborators from Kings College London, has been awarded a research grant from the Closing the Gap Network to develop and evaluate a simulation training programme for primary care services. Closing the Gap is one of eight UKRI funded mental health research networks, with a focus on improving health and reducing inequalities in those with severe mental illness (SMI).

Primary care services are at the frontline of managing the physical health needs of individuals with SMI, however, the physical health needs of these individuals are often neglected, resulting in high mortality rates (World Health Organization). There is limited training targeted at primary care to improve the support they provide to individuals with SMI relating to their physical health. Research shows that Motivational Interviewing training in primary care can be effective at improving patient outcomes, including weight loss, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing substance use (VanBurskirk & Wetherell, 2014). This method is therefore well-suited to improving the physical health of individuals with SMI through exploring ambivalence and supporting positive behaviour change.

Other factors such as clinician attitudes and empathy have been previously linked to patient outcomes (Del Canale et al., 2012; Hojat et al., 2011; Sullivan et al., 2015). By targeting these skills alongside motivational interviewing, we can look to improve the quality of care and patient outcomes for individuals with SMI.

Simulation based training is an experiential learning modality that enables healthcare professionals to practice patient care skills in a near realistic and safe environment. Maudsley Simulation has previously delivered a course targeting motivational interviewing skills to support physical health in mental healthcare. This course had positive outcomes, with participants feeling more confident in their communication skills and in having challenging health conversations (Parish et al., 2019). Therefore, this type of training may be used to enhance skills in primary care, improving quality of care for individuals with SMI, however more research is needed.

This project will deliver and evaluate a training programme to support healthcare staff in having helpful health change conversations with individuals with SMI. The programme will focus on developing skills in motivational interviewing through simulation-based training and didactic sessions to facilitate learning and encourage changes to practice.

The evaluation will measure the impact of the training on clinician attitudes and empathy towards service-users with severe mental illness, alongside observable changes in their communication skills.

Maudsley Learning looks forward to delivering this exciting project with the potential to make significant impacts to primary care practice and the lives of service-users with severe mental illness. The first session of the course is scheduled to happen on Monday 19th of July, and the project will be completed in December 2021.

We are currently recruiting professionals who work in a clinical role in primary care for this research study. As part of this, you will have to attend a short 20 minute video assessment before and after the course, and will be able to attend the 2-day course for free. To find out more about the study and sign-up to participate, please email