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Establishing evidence to inform culturally competent mental health services (EVOLVE) (2022-2024)

Establishing evidence to inform culturally competent mental health services (EVOLVE) (2022-2024)

Funder: The NIHR Three Research Schools, £172,082

Principal investigator: Dr Yu Fu, School for Public Health Research (SPHR) and NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria, Newcastle University


  • School for Primary Care Research (SPCR), University of Manchester
  • School for Social Care Research (SSCR), University of Manchester
  • Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear (CNTW) NHS Foundation Trust
  • North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS)
  • Health equality for ethnically minoritised communities (Haref)
  • Ethic Health Forum (EHF)

About this project

COVID has worsened and deepened the longstanding mental health inequalities for ethnic minorities. Higher levels of anxiety and depression were reported in ethnic minorities across the pandemic, but they had less support from mental health services. This indicates a pressing need to understand what and how changes in using mental health services impact health outcomes of ethnic minorities, so practice will learn what and how services should be provided to satisfy people’s needs.

This study aims to identify what changes happened to mental health services for adults during the pandemic, and how such changes affected ethnic minority groups. The findings will help the NHS to develop culturally appropriate care that meets the social, cultural, ethical, and religious needs of patients post-pandemic.

Research team

Dr Fu, a member of the NIHR School for Public Health Research and Principal Investigator on the award will collaborate with colleagues at the University of Manchester, CNTW NHS Trust, North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS), Health equality for ethnically minoritised communities (Haref) and Ethic Health Forum (EHF).

How it will be carried out

This study was developed with people with lived experience. It will focus on ethnic minorities with mental health difficulties who live in the selected areas where have a larger proportion of ethnic minorities in North East and Greater Manchester where mental health conditions are considered to be most prevalent but are underserved by research activity.

The team will examine studies to see what changes to mental health services and models of care have happened during the pandemic, combined with data collected by the NHS before, during, and after lockdown in some areas where a large proportion of ethnic minorities live, to compare changes in service use and how changes affect people. The team will also talk to people with lived experience to explore what worked well during the pandemic and how they define a high-quality service.


A formal report will be widely shared with all stakeholder groups including individuals and organisations in ethnic minority communities, patients with mental health, service providers, and commissioners. Social media platforms and webinars will be used to engage key stakeholders and share emerging findings. Reports, academic publications, presentations at local, national, and international conferences will be produced.

Moving beyond

Yu expects to extend this work to other areas and regions where the proportion of ethnic minorities is high across England, to ensure that the findings and the recommendation are generalisable at a national level. Also, it would be useful to focus on mapping health services for patients with certain medical conditions where mental health is common comorbidity or sequelae.