Making Every Contact Count

Councils up and down the country have been training increasing numbers of colleagues to have healthy conversations, whether it’s about excess smoking or drinking but also, particularly about mental health.


Making every Contact Count (MECC) has really come into its own during the pandemic. As a training programme that relied heavily on an interactive mode for learning it was unclear if it could be to online delivery. However, it has transferred well to Teams, and Zoom, allowing for interaction, breakout rooms and full discussion.

Councils up and down the country have been training increasing numbers of colleagues to have healthy conversations, whether it’s about excess smoking or drinking but also, particularly about mental health.

There is a recognition that the pandemic has impacted on people’s mental health, removing their usual routines, activities and contact with other people, so much so that those who had never considered their mental health to be at risk are facing episodes of anxiety and depression.

Katie Bannister who is the ICS programme lead for MECC across North East and North Cumbria says that between March – June in 2020, her team have evaluated MECC, trialled the programme online and then rolled it out between July and September as module- based learning.

Since September 2020 this has been revised and is now delivered in a two-hour training package, with videos to watch beforehand and resources maintained on the public health KHub website. Funding came via NHS England to set it up and through the local ICS workforce group. The training was delivered through a Train the Trainer mechanism, targeting larger organisations – acute trusts, mental health trusts, emergency and frontline services to achieve an at scale intervention.

“Since October 2019 we have trained over 500 people,” says Katie. The training focuses on having a health promoting conversation and developing the confidence and competence required to discuss a range of wellbeing issues. During COVID-19 these conversations have often changed such as; talking to those who are isolated during COVID, supporting those who are clinically vulnerable during their shielding calls and more recently supporting the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations by using the MECC principles to form an evidence-based discussion around vaccine concerns.

She says that people have asked to have training in mental health conversations, recognising that these are different to talking about stopping smoking or managing alcohol intake. “People are a bit scared of starting the conversation because they don’t know where it’s going to go. They understand that they need to get it right first time.”

Those who have done the MECC training and are interested in having mental health conversations and supporting people will be directed to Connect 5 training which has being progressed and implemented across the region by Public Health England and Health Education England.

As it becomes clear that the pandemic will have impacted on people’s mental health, equipping individuals with the skillset simply to ask others how they are and allow space for conversations around mental health will be a vital support.