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  • Quality Network for Inpatient Working Age Mental Health Services (QNWA)

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    Nicole McCarthy tells us about the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Quality Network for Inpatient Working Age Mental Health Services (QNWA), how it supports and engages mental health inpatient wards in a process of quality improvement, its accreditation and developmental processes and how you can become a member.


    Who we are

    The Quality Network for Inpatient Working Age Mental Health Services (QNWA) was first established in 2006 as AIMS (Accreditation for Inpatient Mental Health Services), which later specialised to AIMS-WA (Working Age), before becoming a quality network in the summer of 2020. The Network was founded to promote better standards of care within mental health inpatient wards following the publication of findings from the National Audit of Violence 2003-2005, which highlighted the concerning high prevalence of violence on acute wards, but also concluded that examples of good practice were going unrecognised.

    The Network is one of around 30 quality networks, accreditation, national clinical audit, and research and evaluation projects organised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) Centre for Quality Improvement (CCQI). The CCQI works with more than 90% of mental health service providers in the UK to assess and improve the quality of care they provide. Since the first set of QNWA standards were published in September 2006, the Network has grown to include over 140 member wards. A full list of member wards and their current accreditation status is available to view on the RCP's website

    What we do

    QNWA is a not-for-profit, run by quality improvement staff and steered by clinicians and patient and carer representatives. The purpose is to support and engage wards in a process of quality improvement whereby they are reviewed against a set of specialist standards for acute inpatient wards for working age adults. The accreditation process provides recognition for wards who meet a set threshold of standards and who are deemed to be operating at a level that achieves accreditation.

    Upon becoming a quality network in 2020, the developmental membership option was introduced. Unlike accreditation membership which works on a three-year cycle and results in an accreditation decision, the developmental membership works on an annual basis and there is no threshold of standards for services to meet. This allows services to familiarise themselves with the standards and review process before attempting to gain accreditation and to concentrate on any areas of improvement.

    The eighth edition standards were published in May 2022  and aim to reflect the changes in working practices and legislation over the last two years in addition to placing greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainability in mental health services.

    Standards for Acute Inpatient Services for Working Age Adults - 8th Edition (1).pdf

    QNWA promotes the sharing and learning of best practice through peer-led review visits and helps wards to action plan against areas of future improvement. The Network serves to identify areas of achievement and areas for improvement in individual services, through a culture of openness and enquiry. The model is based on engagement rather than inspection and this is achieved by facilitating and encouraging quality improvement through a supportive network of members and rigorous peer-review process.   

     Membership benefits

    • QNWA members benefit from having their service reviewed by expert acute inpatient colleagues and are also invited to attend tailored training events, special interest days and conferences. Some of the key benefits of being a QNWA member are listed below:
    • The QNWA discussion group currently has over 400 members, who can ask questions and share knowledge and examples of best practice. This is the mailing list which is used to keep members up to date about upcoming training, peer reviews, special interest days and events, etc. Members also have exclusive access to Knowledge Hub – an online group to connect, network and share knowledge.
    •  One of the main benefits of being a QNWA member is being able to visit and peer-review other member wards. If staff wish to attend peer-review visits, they must first attend a peer-reviewer training session. These are free to attend and take place online every two months. Once trained, staff will have the opportunity to visit acute inpatient mental health wards across the UK; this is an excellent opportunity for professional development, to contribute to the peer-review process, and to facilitate networking and the sharing of best practice.
    • The Network aims to hold 1–2 special interest days per year on a range of topics suggested by our members. Additionally, the Network holds an annual forum, with speakers, workshops and poster presentations. All QNWA members receive up to two free places to attend online events; face-to-face events are offered at a subsidised rate.

    Contact us

    If you are interested in becoming a member or would like to know more, please contact the QNWA team at QNWA@rcpsych.ac.uk

    About the Author

    I have been working as a Project Officer for QNWA for almost two years. Prior to this role, I have previously worked in mental health education and for a psychological rehabilitation service. I was also a listening volunteer for the Samaritans charity for over a year. I am passionate about working to improve mental health outcomes and working for the RCP has allowed me to engage directly with frontline staff and clinicians, patients and carers in a process of quality improvement and shared learning that has patient safety at its heart.

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