Mental health and the productivity challenge

This content relates to the following topics:

This project explored opportunities to re-design mental health services in order to improve productivity, but without sacrificing quality of care.

What did we do in this project?

As part of The King's Fund's Quality in a Cold Climate programme, we examined opportunities to re-design mental health services in order to improve productivity without sacrificing quality of care. The objective of our work was to help mental health commissioners and providers identify areas in which it may be possible to deliver mental health services in a different, more cost-effective way.

The final report was published in December 2010: Mental health and the productivity challenge: improving quality and value for money. Our research demonstrates that there is scope to improve productivity in mental health care, and that there are also significant opportunities for mental health services to support productivity improvements in other areas of the NHS and in public spending more widely.

Of the areas highlighted in the report, we consider that the following are the most promising targets for immediate attention:

  • reducing unnecessary bed use in acute and secure psychiatric wards, for example by strengthening community teams that help to avoid admission and facilitate discharge
  • establishing systems to review the use of highly expensive out-of-area treatments
  • improving workforce productivity
  • strengthening the interface between mental and physical health care, particularly for older people and people with long-term conditions.

Why are we interested in this piece of work?

The NHS is facing the most significant financial challenge in its history. Even with the small increases in funding announced in the government's Comprehensive Spending Review, substantial productivity improvements will be needed if the NHS is to continue improving the quality of patient care and respond to demographic change and other cost pressures.

Mental health has seen relatively large increases in funding over the past decade, partly as a response to historic under-investment. As a large area of spending, now accounting for more than 12 per cent of primary care trusts’ commissioning budgets, the mental health sector will need to play a key part in responding to the financial challenge, both by improving productivity within mental health care, and also by helping other parts of the NHS achieve better value for money.

Project team