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Mental health providers urged to adopt quality improvement initiatives

Mental health providers have been called upon to adopt quality improvement more in order to make care for patients better.

The call comes from think tank the King’s Fund, which states that while the practice of continually changing services through testing, measuring, reviewing and refining is increasingly common across NHS trusts, more needs to be done to implement these measures further.

In particular, researchers said that though this approach was adopted in individual teams or services, it was rarely seen across organisations.

The ‘Quality improvement in mental health’ report where the King’s Fund details its findings comes shortly after a landmark CQC report into the state of mental health that found too often organisations were providing unsafe restrictive, and overly institutional care to patients.

The King’s Fund argues its recommendations have the potential to transform quality and efficiency of care by reducing lengths of stay, waiting times, bed numbers and occupancy. It also stated that if done systematically by engaging frontline teams, quality improvement can lead to sustained improvements that are shared across the organisation.

Key findings suggest that embracing quality improvement requires a change in the traditional approach to leadership at all levels of an organisation, so that those closest to problems (staff and patients) can devise the best solutions and implement them. And doing quality improvement at scale requires an appropriate organisational infrastructure, both to support frontline teams and to ensure that learning spreads and is taken up across the organisation.

“As the CQC highlights in its new report, pressures on mental health services in England are rising, and access to timely support at times of crises remains a longstanding issue,” said Shilpa Ross, senior researcher at the King’s Fund.

“Some mental health providers have reported impressive improvements in patient care by making quality improvement a part of the way the organisation does things.”

Ross also stated that quality improvements have the added benefit of improving the organisational culture, something that many providers struggle to do and that has a positive impact on both employees and the experience of people being cared for.

“It is important that mental health providers look at how they can adopt quality improvement to meet the pressing need to improve services,” she concluded.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said that while he welcomed the recommendations in the King’s Fund report and the emphasis on a systematic approach, the importance of ensuring the workforce was fit for the future and that funds were reaching the frontline could not be underestimated.

“Mental health has long been the forerunner in demonstrating how to work in a holistic and integrated way,” he argued. “Just over a year since it was published, the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is having a positive impact and this is despite the ongoing pressures from the workforce, the issue of funding reaching the frontline of services and the need for investment to match increased demand.” 

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