Mental Health Services

Department of Health written question – answered on 21st January 2016.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Mental Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what evaluation has been carried out of commissioning plans to ensure that those plans are implementing choice of mental health provider and team since April 2014.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Mental Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what arrangements have been made to ensure that existing and new mental health services providers are able to secure contracts to provide services under an NHS Standard Contract since the introduction of patients' legal right to choice in mental health in April 2014.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Mental Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department has taken to (a) publicise patients' rights to choice over their mental health provider, (b) inform patients where they can find information about mental health providers and teams in order to help them make choices and (c) inform patients how they can complain if they feel they have not been offered a choice in their mental health care.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Mental Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what estimate his Department has made of the number and proportion of clinical commissioning groups that are ensuring patients in their area have a choice of mental health services.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health

The guidance on patients’ choice in mental health care, published by NHS England in 2014, details the expectation on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in respect of their contracting practices, stating that commissioners are required to secure services that meet the needs of the populations for which they are responsible. In doing so, CCGs must ensure that arrangements are in place for providers, irrespective of whether they are public, independent or third sector organisations, to qualify and secure NHS Standard Contracts for the provision of services.

When making commissioning decisions, commissioners should regularly review the patterns and trends of patients exercising their legal right to choice, and consider the extent to which they are meeting patients’ needs and preferences and take account of this in their commissioning plans and strategies.

CCGs are required by the NHS Planning Guidance (2016/17 – 2020/21) to produce five-year Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) and one-year Operational Plans. The STP will include plans for a radical upgrade in patient choice and control, which will significantly improve patient choice by 2020.

CCGs are required to submit these plans to NHS England for review and assurance. The NHS England choice team are part of this process.

To support commissioners, referrers and providers, NHS England published guidance on ‘implementing patients’ legal rights to choose the provider and team for their mental health care’, in August 2014. The guidance seeks to promote a common understanding of what mental health patients’ legal rights are, where they apply, and what they mean in everyday practice. The guidance should enable consistency in the application of these rights, while also acknowledging the need for clinical judgments and decisions according to the circumstances of individual patients.

Following the release of the guidance, the NHS England choice team has responded to a number of patient, provider and commissioner queries and concerns regarding choice. Detailed work with local economies and partners such as Monitor, has been undertaken to address concerns, with any resulting learning being shared with the sector to improve the operation of choice in other localities.

There is also information on the NHS Choices website, which covers all aspects of exercising choice in mental health services. It explains patients’ legal rights, what this will mean in terms of what the process should be, where to find information, helpful checklists and a number of useful links. This information can be found at the following web-link:

As of April 2015, the NHS Choice Framework includes a patient’s legal right to choice of mental healthcare provider for their first appointment as an outpatient, reflecting the changes to the exemption from choice in mental health services made in April 2015. The Framework provides guidance on where patients can find the information and support they need to help them make their choice and how to complain if they do not feel they have been offered a choice.

NHS England ran a national survey in 2015, which included 2,700 patients who had been referred for an outpatient appointment (all services) by their general practitioner. It found that 51% of patients were aware of their right to choose where they attended for outpatient appointments and, where they had been offered a choice, most said they had done so with adequate information (89%) and were able to attend their preferred hospital or clinic (92%).

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