Mental health trusts to get Ofsted-style ratings under new inspection model

Specialist inspectors and greater focus on community services also part of new inspection system

Mental health trusts will be given Ofsted-style ratings by specialist mental health inspectors under a new inspection model unveiled by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) today.

In a move that echoes the way children’s social services are currently regulated, every one of England’s 58 mental health trusts will be rated as ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requiring improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ by December 2015, the CQC said. The watchdog will have the power to put failing trusts on special measures and recommend that senior management should be replaced.

In a significant shift from the previous CQC inspection model’s focus on inpatient care, the new system will also examine care at a sample of each trust’s community services. Every inspection team will also include specialist inspectors with mental health expertise, including at least one Mental Health Act expert.

Sir Mike Richards, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said a ‘first wave’ of inspections under the new model would begin shortly, with five trusts selected to pilot the system.

“We have recognised that we need to strengthen our approach to regulating specialist mental health services to ensure that people get care that is safe, effective, responsive to people’s needs and well led,” he said.

Under the new approach, inspection teams will also consider several ’emerging concerns’ in mental health such as deaths caused by restraint, crisis care availability and arrangements for transitions between children’s and adult mental health services.

Each inspection will have three stages:

  • A preparation phase where inspection teams gather data and feedback on the quality of care at a trust from patients, families, commissioners and other local clinical experts.
  • The inspection itself where the team visits services and interviews staff, patients and management
  • The publication of a final report on care at the trust.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, welcomed the CQC’s move to inspect more community teams.

“The vast majority of people’s experience of metnal health services are in the community so capturing the quality of those services is really important,” said Farmer.

“There is no shortage of people who are keen to comment to inspectors about the quality of their community services. We’re confident that won’t be an issue as long as the platforms are created for inspectors to engage with service users and their families.”

Care and support services minister Norman Lamb said the new system would “help root out poor mental health care”.

“Introducing specialist inspectors and new ratings will also help drive up standards across the board and improve care,” Lamb addded.

The CQC is to appoint a deputy chief inspector of hospitals with mental health expertise to oversee the implementation of the new model alongside Richards.

is Community Care’s community editor

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