Acute mental health care: expectations of the service

A declaration outlining expectations of good quality acute mental healthcare was launched yesterday with the backing of 10 government, NHS, professional, service user and voluntary sector bodies.

The publication responds to a Healthcare Commission study of inpatient care last year which found 16% of mental health trusts provided a weak standard of care and identified stark variations in the quality and safety of care.

It is also designed to ensure that acute mental health services are not marginalised as the government takes forward its New Horizons strategy on the future of mental health.

Five priorities

The declaration sets out five priorities: commissioning and providing high quality care; promoting recovery and inclusion for users; workforce development; championing positive perceptions of services and tackling stigma; and promoting research.

Co-written by the Mental Health Network, which represents most mental health trusts, and government agency the National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU), it has the backing of charities including Rethink and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

Last year’s Healthcare Commission report – based on the largest review of inpatient services ever undertaken in England – revealed serious concerns about poor security, violence, overcrowding, and lack of service user involvement.

However the report also rated 41% of trusts as good or excellent on inpatient care.

Progress made

In a background statement on the declaration, Yvonne Stoddart, national acute care programme lead for the NMHDU, said this illustrated the progress that had been made under the National Service Framework for Mental Health. The 10-year NSF expires this year, to be replaced by New Horizons.

However, Stoddart added: “Despite clear evidence of good progress, the majority of media coverage of acute inpatient services remains very negative, and too often this is allied to internal criticisms.

“We need to address issues of exclusion and misrepresentation relating specifically to acute care services and collectively champion changing perceptions of acute mental health services.”

Specific proposals in the declaration include developing services that are safe but in the least restrictive settings, including users and carers as partners in care and developing a specialist workforce with the right attitudes and skill mix.

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