Published: 15/01/2004, Volume II4, No. 5888 Page 7

Up to four mental health trusts are to be asked to pilot a system developed in New Zealand to introduce the payment-by-results programme to mental health.

Initial approval from ministers to start work on a pilot will be sought this week by officials running the programme. At first the system will be a paper exercise, classifying mental health treatments and their costs.

The work needs to be carried out because data available in mental trusts is not good enough to support a robust payment-byresults system.

Ministers are expected to approve work on the 2003 mental heath classification and outcomes study, which was produced by the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand Mental Health Commission.

Though the model has been specifically designed to take into account the high rates of mental illness suffered by Maoris and Pacific islanders, it is thought the study could be a good fit for UK trusts.

A group of senior mental health trust managers and other mental health experts is set to meet at the end of the month to discuss the New Zealand document and how work should be carried out. Three or four trusts will then be asked to pilot the study.A number of trusts are known to have volunteered after the New Zealand project was flagged up in last year's consultation on payment by results.

A senior member of the Department of Health's paymentby-results programme said: 'The data on treatments and costs in mental health is so poor that we are in no position to begin payment by results in it. If we wanted to develop our own case-mix data, we would have to wait four or five years.'