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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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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