CQC reports on the quality of specialist mental health care in England

Published: 20 July 2017 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

Today we have published a new report detailing the findings from our comprehensive inspections of specialist mental health services over the last three years.

The state of care in mental health services 2014 to 2017 cover image

State of care in mental health services 2014 to 2017 captures learning from our inspections and findings from our role monitoring use of the the Mental Health Act, as well as analysis of data from other sources. This rich resource of information means we now know more about the quality of mental health care than ever before.

At 31 May 2017, our inspectors rated 68% of core services provided by NHS trusts and 72% of independent mental health locations as good; with 6% of NHS and 3% of independent core services rated as outstanding. But they also found too much poor care, and far too much variation in both quality and access across different services. 

The report describes how our inspectors found that the clear majority of services are caring and compassionate towards their patients, with 88% of NHS and 93% of independent services being rated as good in this key question.

However, the report also identifies several areas of concern: difficulties around accessing services, physical environments not designed to keep people safe, care that is over-restrictive and institutional in nature, and poor recording and sharing of information that undermines the efforts of staff to work together to make sure that people get the right care at the right time.

Speaking about the report, Dr Paul Lelliott, Deputy Chief Inspector (Lead for Mental Health) said:

"More than ever before, people are being encouraged to talk openly about mental health issues and to share their experiences - and more people than ever are receiving treatment and care for mental health problems, in part due to a reduction in the stigma associated with mental ill health. But this vital work must be supported by services that give people the help they need when they need it.

"The mental health sector is at a crossroads. The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, published last year, points the way to a future where people have easy access to high quality care close to home and are able to exercise choice. To achieve this vision, the sector must overcome an unprecedented set of challenges – high demand, workforce shortages, unsuitable buildings and poor clinical information systems.

"Some services remain rooted in the past – providing care that is over-restrictive and that is not tailored to each person’s individual needs. This can leave people feeling helpless and powerless. But the best services are looking to the future by working in partnership with the people whose care they deliver, empowering their staff and looking for opportunities to work with other parts of the health and care system."

Now that we have inspected all specialist mental health services, we have a baseline against which we can continue to monitor and measure the quality of care. We will continue to highlight good practice, drive improvement and take action to protect people where necessary. We expect those that deliver and commission care must learn from the services that are getting it right so that everyone gets the help they need when they need it.