On the 23 January 2023 the Minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield MP, announced the commencement of a rapid review into patient safety in mental health inpatient settings in England. The review Chair, Dr Geraldine Strathdee, was asked to consider how improvements could be made to the way that data and information is used in relation to patient safety in mental health inpatient care settings and pathways, including for people with a learning disability and autistic people. This report contains the findings of this review and an associated set of recommendations.
Below is a brief summary of the main recommendations set out in this report. The findings and recommendations in full can be read here.
NHS England should establish a programme of work, co-produced with experts by experience and key national, regional and local leaders, including Care Quality Commission (CQC), Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), provider collaboratives, independent safeguarding bodies, professional bodies, provider representatives and third sector organisations, among others, to agree how to make sure that providers, commissioners and national bodies are ‘measuring what matters’ for mental health inpatient services, and can access the information they need to provide safe, therapeutic care.
Digital platforms that allow the collection of core patient information and associated data infrastructure must allow submissions into relevant national data sets, directly or through other interoperable platforms, and facilitate data flows between systems of different local provider organisations to support joined-up understanding of care pathways. These systems should allow the data collected to be made available to different decision makers, including CQC, at the appropriate level of aggregation and without requiring duplicative submissions, and allow benchmarking across trusts and independent sector providers.
NHS England’s Transformation Directorate should scope out options for how this ambition could be delivered, including cost implications and a value for money assessment to help providers meet this aim specifically for mental health, including specific ways in which mental health electronic patient record improvement and data sharing can be prioritised and interdependencies with other systems and programmes of work.
ICSs and provider collaboratives should bring together trusts and independent sector providers, along with other relevant stakeholders such as independent safeguarding bodies, across all healthcare sectors to facilitate the cross-sector sharing of good practice in data collection, reporting and use.
The Department of Health and Social Care, in partnership with NHS England and CQC and supported by key experts from across governmental and non-governmental organisations, should convene all the relevant organisations who collect and analyse mortality data to determine what further action is needed to improve the timeliness, quality and availability of that data.
Provider boards should take the following actions to improve their capacity to identify, prevent and respond to risks to patient safety:
- Every provider board should urgently review its membership and skillset and ensure that the board has an expert by experience and carer representative.
- Every provider board should ensure that its membership has the skills to understand and interpret data about mental health inpatient pathways and ensure that a responsive quality improvement methodology is embedded across their organisations.
- CQC should assess and report on whether the membership of the boards of providers of mental health inpatient services includes experts by experience (including carer) representatives and whether boards are maintaining an appropriately high level of data literacy and quality improvement expertise on mental health inpatient pathways among their membership as part of their assessments.
- Every provider board should urgently review its approach to board reports and board assessment frameworks to ensure that they highlight the key risks in all of their mental health inpatient wards, as set out in the safety issues framework, and that they support the board to take action to mitigate risks and improve care, including both quantitative data and qualitative ‘soft intelligence’ such as feedback from patients, staff and carers.
- NHS England should review and update the guidance on board assessment frameworks.
Trust and provider leaders, including board members, should prioritise spending time on wards regularly, including regular unannounced and ‘out-of-hours’ visits, to be available to and gather informal intelligence from staff and patients.
All providers of NHS-funded care should review the information they provide about their inpatient services to patients and carers annually and make sure that comprehensive information about staffing, ward environment, therapeutic activity and other relevant information about life on the wards is available. CQC should assess the quality, availability and accessibility of this information as part of their assessment of services.
ICSs and provider collaboratives should map out the pathway for all their mental health service lines to establish which parties need access to relevant data at all points on the pathway and take steps to ensure that data is available to those who need it.
ICSs will develop system-wide infrastructure strategies by December 2023 and the mental health estate needs to be fully incorporated and represented in these strategies and in subsequent local action plans. This recommendation is for local ICSs to review the mental health estate to inform these and future strategies, recognising there are evidence-based therapeutic design features that can contribute to reducing risk and improving safety.
Providers should review their processes for allowing ward visitors access to mental health inpatient wards with a view to increasing the amount of time families, carers, friends and advocates can spend on wards. The Department of Health and Social Care should consider what more can be done to strengthen the expectation for all health and care providers in England to allow visiting.
All providers of NHS-funded care should meet the relevant core carer standards set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Triangle of Care, England. Regulators, including CQC and professional regulators, should consider how to monitor the implementation of these carer standards, especially where there is greater risk of unsafe closed cultures developing. ICSs should consider how to routinely seek carer feedback. Inpatient staff training programmes should identify how they can benefit from carer trainers. For patients detained under the Mental Health Act, families and carers should be part of all detention reviews.
Professional bodies, such as the Royal Colleges, should come together across healthcare sectors to form an alliance for compassionate professional care. This multi-professional alliance should:
- work together and learn from each other to identify ways to drive improvement in the quality of compassionate care and safety across all sectors, including mental health services, and how they can support staff to provide it
- along with their specialist data units, where they exist, contribute to the work set out in recommendation.
Except where specified, these recommendations should be implemented by all parties within 12 months of the publication of this report. Government ministers, through the Department of Health and Social Care, should review progress against these recommendations after 12 months.