NHS Confederation publish definitions for mental health services


In mental health there has not been a consistent set of definitions that describe what is meant by an inpatient bed. This has led to difficulty in benchmarking and understanding patterns of performance.

Understanding how inpatient beds and community services can best be utilised as part of a reshaped pathway, and whether the number of beds can be further reduced over time, with an appropriate mix to meet local need, is a key component in a commissioner’s knowledge base.

Quality and productivity improvements should not just be about reducing beds. They should be about ensuring the right number and mix of beds in the right place with the right level of support, based on an agreed definition and common understanding of what each set of beds or services is for.

Bringing greater consistency to both language and understanding in respect of defining services will enable decision making about service redesign to be more consistent and based on a set of definitions that are well understood and accepted across the system.

This report will be of interest to commissioners, clinicians and managers. It includes definitions for:

  • Acute inpatient bed
  • Psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU)
  • Forensic services
  • Recovery and rehabilitation services
  • CAMHS Tier 4 inpatient services
  • Dementia assessment
  • Care homes and nursing home care
  • Housing and housing-related support
  • Crisis accommodation
  • Living at home with a care package

Defining mental health services: promoting effective commissioning and supporting QIPP (PDF). NHS Confederation, Mental Health Network. 25 Jan 2012.

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