CQC logoThe Care Quality Commission (CQC) will inspect mental health trusts according to their risk, the regulator has announced.

The announcement comes after the CQC published information on every Mental Health NHS trust in England for the first time. The information is CQC’s analysis of 59 different sources of evidence, ranging from concerns raised by healthcare staff, bed occupancy rates, to staff and patient surveys.

CQC collects this evidence to help plan its inspection activities and to show the NHS and the public how it works and where it could have concerns in these topics.

This analysis shows that the majority of Mental Health NHS trusts in England appear to be of low concern. Of the 57 Mental Health NHS Trusts in England, CQC has placed 39 of these into bands from one to four – highest perceived risk to lowest perceived risk. Of the 39 trusts within these bands, 15 are in band four – the lowest category. Four are in band one, 16 are in band two, 2 are in band three.

The regulator pointed out that while this is not a judgment of their performance, it is a positive indication about what the quality of their care could be like.

CQC will use this analysis to guide its inspections from April 2015. CQC can only judge the performance of a mental health NHS trusts once it has carried out an inspection of whether its services are safe, caring, effective, responsive to people’s needs and well-led.

Intelligent monitoring

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals (lead for mental health), said: “We have developed this ‘intelligent monitoring’ tool to give our inspection teams a clear indication of the aspects of care that may warrant further investigation on their inspections. 

“While the bandings are not judgements of quality, we hope NHS trusts will use our analysis to reflect on where they may need to improve.

“It is encouraging that of the mental health NHS trusts within bands, over a third is of lowest concern. 

“Those that give us the greatest concern will be prioritised for inspection so that we can be confident people receive safe, high-quality and compassionate care.”

Targeted inspections

Dr Katherine Rake OBE, chief executive of Healthwatch England, added: “It comes as no surprise that access to beds and the general quality of mental health facilities have both been flagged by this report. Patients and their loved ones have been raising these concerns with local Healthwatch right across the country for some time.  

“Four of the country’s mental health trusts fall into the CQC’s highest risk category and action must be taken now to ensure that patients of these facilities in question are accessing quality care.

“We hope that armed with this new intelligence, the inspectors will be able to target their efforts. It is critical that standards are driven up to ensure everyone has access to the same high quality care.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “One in four of us will experience a mental health problem next year and those of us who seek help for our mental health have the right to expect safe, speedy access to the services we need, when we need them. While we know that in some parts of the country services are very good, in too many places services are failing people when they are unwell. We are pleased to see that the CQC is looking to listen to the views of both staff and people who use services and making the most of the intelligence available to really get behind the scenes of mental health services.”