Introduction and overview

Introduction and overview

This quality standard outlines the level of service that people using the NHS mental health services should expect to receive. It covers improving the experience of people using adult NHS mental health services. It does not cover mental health service users using NHS services for physical health problems, or the experiences of families or carers of people using NHS services specifically.


Over the past few years several documents and initiatives have highlighted the importance of the service user's experience and the need to focus on improving these experiences where possible.

  • Lord Darzi's report 'High quality care for all' (2008) highlighted the importance of the entire service user experience within the NHS, ensuring people are treated with compassion, dignity and respect within a clean, safe and well-managed environment.

  • The NHS Constitution (2013) describes the purpose, principles and values of the NHS and illustrates what staff, service users and the public can expect from the service. Since the Health Act came into force in January 2010, service providers and commissioners of NHS care have had a legal obligation to take the Constitution into account in all their decisions and actions.

  • The King's Fund charitable foundation has developed a comprehensive policy resource – 'Seeing the person in the patient: the point of care review paper' (2008). Some of the topics explored in the paper are used in the development of this guidance and quality standard.

National initiatives aimed at improving service users' experience of healthcare include NHS Choices, a comprehensive information service that helps people to manage their healthcare and provides service users and carers with information and choice about their care. Initiatives, such as patient advice and liaison services (PALS), have also been introduced.

Despite these initiatives, there is evidence to suggest that further work is needed to deliver the best possible experience for users of NHS services. The Government signalled in its White Paper, 'Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS' (July 2010) that more emphasis needs to be placed on improving service users' experience of NHS care.

High-quality care should be clinically effective, safe and be provided in a way that ensures the service user has the best possible experience of care. This quality standard on service user experience aims to ensure that users of mental health services have the best possible experience of care from the NHS.

This quality standard describes markers of high-quality, cost-effective care that, when delivered collectively, should contribute to improving the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for service users in the following ways:

  • enhancing quality of life for people with long-term conditions.

  • ensuring that people have a positive experience of care.

  • treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm.

The NHS Outcomes Framework 2011/12 is available from

In addition, this quality standard should contribute to:

  • enhancing quality of life for people with care and support needs.

  • ensuring that people have a positive experience of care and support.

  • safeguarding adults whose circumstances make them vulnerable and protecting from avoidable harm.

The 2011/12 Adult Social Care Outcome Framework is available from

It is important that the quality standard is considered by commissioners, healthcare professionals and service users alongside current policy and guidance documents listed in the evidence sources section.


The quality standard for service user experience in adult mental health requires that services should be commissioned from and coordinated across all relevant agencies encompassing the whole care pathway. An integrated approach to provision of services is fundamental to the delivery of high-quality care to service users.

NICE quality standards are for use by the NHS in England and do not have formal status in the social care sector. However, the NHS will not be able to provide a comprehensive service for all without working with social care communities. In this quality standard care has been taken to make sure that any quality statements that refer to the social care sector are relevant and evidence-based. Social care commissioners and providers may therefore wish to use them, both to improve the quality of their services and support their colleagues in the NHS.

Subject to legislation currently before Parliament, NICE will be given a brief to produce quality standards for social care. These standards will link with corresponding topics published for the NHS. They will be developed in full consultation with the social care sector and will be presented and disseminated in ways that meet the needs of the social care community. As we develop this library of social care standards, we will review and adapt any published NICE quality standards for the NHS that make reference to social care.