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New mental health ratings and CCG performance data go public

Intended to boost service improvement and accountability

Caroline White

Friday, 28 October 2016

NHS England has published new ratings for mental health services as well as data on individual CCG performance, in a bid to boost improvement and public accountability.

The ratings, which form part of the Clinical Commissioning Group Improvement and Assessment Framework (CCGIAF) for 2016-17, include six clinical priority areas, of which mental health is one.

The rating for mental health focuses on elements of two national standards: the number of people who are moving to recovery following treatment from IAPT services; and those receiving treatment within two weeks of referral when experiencing a first episode psychosis.

A new integrated ‘dashboard’ for mental health has also been published, which brings together data from across the range of mental health services. The data have been drawn from published datasets, where available, and will be updated quarterly.

The dashboard is in response to the recommendation in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health that NHS England create a tool that would enable it to hold national and local bodies to account for implementing the strategy.

The dashboard includes a suite of measures structured around the core elements of the mental health programme as well as metrics on employment and settled housing outcomes for people with mental health problems.

This information will not help NHS England track improvement at the CCG level and enable commissioners to understand where they need to target their efforts more effectively, but it is also intended for services users and their families to enable them to make more informed choices about their care.

NHS England Chief Simon Stevens said the new level of local transparency was “unprecedented for any mental health service anywhere in the world.”

He added: “Over the next five years, we want to see major improvements in NHS mental services. These figures for last year transparently lay out the starting baseline against which everyone will be able to judge whether the NHS is getting better in each and every town, city and county across England.”

Professor Tim Kendall, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, admitted: “We know there is significant work to be done to improve mental health services in England,” but insisted that performance had already improved in recent months.

Stephen Dalton, who heads up the NHS Confederation, commented: "For too long Mental Health services in England have been relegated to a poor second tier when it comes to NHS investment and prioritisation. [Now] we see the first clear signs that NHS England is determined to turn this around and give parity to mental health.”

He added: “Our staff on the frontline should be thanked and those who need our services would rightly remind us we are far from offering the services required in every community. The challenge is to ensure standards are now universally applied, and regular transparent publication of the data is key to building trust.”

Rebecca Cotton, Director of Mental Health Policy, Mental Health Network, said that against a backdrop of “hugely challenging financial circumstances,” improvements had nevertheless been made.

“There is, however, still much work to be done, particularly around Mental Health Act detentions, access to therapies in secure settings and declining numbers of full physical health checks for people with severe mental health within two weeks,” she emphasised.

And she added: “To improve these areas, it is imperative that NHS England and the government make good on their promises to get funding to the frontline where it is urgently needed.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity MIND, said the dashboard would bring “some much needed openness and transparency to what has historically been a fairly opaque landscape. And over time it will be a critical tool to see if the current rhetoric around commitments to improving mental health really do match the reality on the ground.”

He added: "We simply can’t afford to let people with mental health problems down any more.”

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