A new head of quality post is being created to oversee improvements
It is the responsibility of every board, whether it’s an NHS board or private sector board, to ensure absolutely that they are delivering on safety and quality, not only in accordance with their contracts, but because that’s what the healthcare business is all about.” Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health, NHS England
NHS England (NHSE) is to crack down on poor care from mental health service providers, with a particular focus on independent units treating NHS patients, according to a report in HSJ.
Just over a quarter of independent providers are failing to meet quality standards. Of the 238 independent NHS mental health providers licensed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England, 174 (73%) are classed as “good” or “outstanding” while the remaining 27% either “require improvement” or are rated “inadequate”.
Independent units are often used by NHS trusts for out-of-area placements or to cope with the lack of acute mental health beds. NHSE has said it is trying to end the practice of sending patients out of area.
NHSE’s national director for mental health, Claire Murdoch, told HSJ: “It is the responsibility of every board, whether it’s an NHS board or private sector board, to ensure absolutely that they are delivering on safety and quality, not only in accordance with their contracts, but because that’s what the healthcare business is all about.”
She said that NHSE will strengthen its quality improvement programme to make sure all units providing mental healthcare are safe. It has created a new head of quality post to oversee improvements across NHS and private healthcare. This will be filled by the current NHSE head of mental health, Liz Durrant.
Murdoch told HSJ that Durrant will lead a “very major quality improvement programme that will focus hugely on inpatient care, and including very much the independent sector.”
Last year, NHSE intervened in the case of Cygnet Healthcare after repeated quality concerns had been made about the provider’s 100-plus units. It told the provider that “patients deserve better” and that they would “not hesitate to take further action” if improvements were not made.
The NHS is heavily reliant on independent providers for support in treating mental health patients. It’s crucial that these providers are subject to the same scrutiny and oversight as the NHS’s own mental health units. The appointment of a head of quality to oversee improvements in provision is a very welcome step. Mental health services have suffered from poor funding and leadership over many years. The Covid pandemic, along with stresses across the health and care system, is exacerbating longstanding problems which need new approaches if critical needs are going to be met.