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Ensuring corporate and quality assurance

Commissioners should ensure that the services they commission represent value for money and offer the best possible outcomes for patients. Commissioners need to set clear specifications for monitoring and assuring quality in the service contract.

Commissioners should ensure that they consider both the clinical and economic viability of the service, and any related services, and take into account patients' and carers' views and those of other stakeholders when making commissioning decisions.

An antenatal and postnatal mental health service needs to:

  • be effective and efficient
  • be responsive to the needs of patients and carers
  • provide treatment and care based on best practice, as defined in NICE clinical guideline CG45 on antenatal and postnatal mental health
  • deliver the required capacity
  • be integrated with other elements of care for women with mental disorders during pregnancy and the postnatal period
  • define agreed criteria for referral, local protocols and the care pathway for women requiring mental health services before and after delivery
  • be patient-centred and provide equitable access, ensuring that women are treated with dignity and respect, are fully informed about their care and are able to make decisions about their care in partnership with healthcare professionals
  • demonstrate how it meets requirements under equalities legislation
  • demonstrate value for money.

Local quality assurance

Any mechanisms for quality assurance at a local level are likely to refer to the following.

  • Service and performance targets, including estimated activity levels and case mix, waiting and referral-to-treatment times (ensuring that patients and carers do not experience unnecessary delays), complaints procedures.
  • Clinical governance arrangements, including incident reporting.
  • Clinical quality criteria: appropriateness of referral, consenting procedures, clinical protocols.
  • Audit arrangements: frequency of reporting, reporting route and format, and dissemination mechanisms; this should include auditing the proportion of eligible women requiring antenatal and postnatal mental health services who are provided with care, and monitoring of patient outcomes and complications (see audit criteria for NICE clinical guideline CG45 on antenatal and postnatal mental health for further information). Commissioners will need to monitor prescribing patterns locally.
  • Health, safety and security: infection control, waste management, confidentiality procedures, legislative requirements.
  • Accreditation requirements: Standards for mother and baby inpatient units are available from the Royal College of Psychiatrists Quality network for perinatal mental health services. The network engages with frontline staff and applies a clinical audit method within a peer-support network.
  • Patient satisfaction: patient and carer perspectives and perceptions of service provision, complaints.
  • Patient outcomes: fewer women admitted to general psychiatric wards, reduced length of stay on inpatient mother and baby units, reduced number of readmissions to mother and baby units, improved patient safety and reduced the risk of fetal abnormality.
  • Staff competencies: individual and team baseline requirements, monitoring and performance.
  • Information requirements, including both patient-specific information (NHS number, referring GP, provision of high-quality information to patients/carers) and service-specific information (referral-to-treatment times, workload trends, number of complaints).
  • The process for reviewing the service with stakeholders, including decisions on changes necessary to improve or to decommission the service.
  • Achieving targets associated with equalities legislation.

Further information

General information on quality and corporate assurance can be obtained from the following sources.

  • The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) oversees the implementation of a system to report and learn from adverse events and near misses occurring in the NHS. The publication ‘Seven steps to patient safety' provides an overview of patient safety and gives updates on the tools that the NPSA is developing to support patient safety across the health service.
  • NHS Alliance online resources NHS Alliance is the representational organisation of primary care and primary care trusts, and provides them with an opportunity to network and exchange best practice. The alliance supports its members with an open-access helpline, in-house and joint publications and briefings, internal newsletters and a website.
  • The DH commissioning framework provides guidance on the commissioning process in the context of the NHS reform agenda.
  • NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement support for commissioners, includes Commissioning for Health Improvement products to accelerate the achievement of world class commissioning; The Productive Leader programme to enable leadership teams to reduce waste and variation in personal work processes, and Better care, better value indicators to help inform planning, to inform views on the scale of potential efficiency savings in different aspects of care, and to generate ideas on how to achieve these savings.
  • 10 Steps to your SES: a guide to developing a single equality scheme. This guidance has been developed to assist NHS organisations that have a duty, as public authorities, to comply with the race, disability and gender public sector duties, and in anticipation of new duties in relation to age, religion and belief, and sexual orientation.

Specific information on quality and corporate assurance for an antenatal and postnatal mental health service can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Better metrics is a pragmatic project that provides clinically relevant measures of performance to support the development of measurable local targets and indicators for local quality improvement projects. See ‘mental health' metric 9.06 and ‘children and maternity' metric 3.0.
  • Skills for health works with employers and other stakeholders to ensure that those working in the sector are equipped with the right skills to support the development and delivery of healthcare services. See details of the mental health and maternity and care of the newborn competency framework.

This page was last updated: 02 March 2012

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Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.