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Independent providers of mental healthcare look set to come under greater scrutiny under national plans to crack down on poor quality services.

In an interview with HSJ, NHS England mental health director Claire Murdoch revealed a strengthened focus on the quality and safety of inpatient services.

It came as data shared with HSJ suggested that of the 238 independent NHS mental health providers licensed by the Care Quality Commission in England, 174 (73 per cent) are classed as “good” or “outstanding”. The remaining 64 (27 per cent) either “require improvement” or are considered “inadequate”.

A new “head of quality” will oversee improvements, Ms Murdoch said.

Significant proportions of independent providers, heavily used by NHS mental health services, have come under fire for instances of poor care, and in some cases, abuse. The fact that many still provide services for NHS-funded mental health patients, some of whom are very vulnerable, makes this quality drive all the more important.

That is not to say that the NHS is immune to quality and safety issues – it is about time that inpatient settings are looked into as a priority to ensure patients receive the care they deserve.

Desperate situation

Five years on from Wannacry, the NHS has been affected by another cyber attack.

While the scope of this attack – on IT supplier Advanced – is affecting fewer trusts, the impact is significant and there is concern at the highest level of the NHS.

HSJ has learned that health chiefs are fearing that the attackers have accessed patient data, after “demands” were made against the company by the perpetrators.

These concerns are based on the possibility that the cyber attackers have been in Advanced’s systems for a period of time, as the extent of the attack has not yet been fully investigated.

Chief executives of affected NHS trusts – predominantly mental health providers – were yesterday told it was too early to conclude whether data has been accessed.

Advanced merely said its investigation was under way “with respect to potentially impacted data”.

Whether the data has been accessed or not, the incident has caused huge disruption to at least nine mental health trusts – whose staff are unable to access the Carenotes electronic patient record.

NHS 111 and other urgent care services are also struggling on with pens and paper, but as one trust CEO summed up to HSJ: “The situation is pretty desperate.”