Published: 22/07/2004, Volume II4, No. 5915 Page 6

Poor data quality in mental health trusts is the main reason why almost one-third of mental health providers have lost a star this year.

Of 83 organisations rated on mental health, 13 mental health trusts and 11 primary care trusts that provide mental health services have lost stars.

The Healthcare Commission said data quality was of particular concern: 'These trusts are working in an extremely complex area and are less good at pulling together some of their information on patients, ' said chief executive Anna Walker.

Commission head of information and analysis Lorraine Foley added that the requirement to submit a minimum health data set had caused trusts particular problems.

This year trusts were required to submit live data on their patients.

Last year they only had to say whether they believed they had the right systems in place.

Mental health trusts slammed a system they said paid more attention to ticking boxes than improving services. Chief executives said historic lack of investment in technology, and a recent spate of mergers, meant trusts were often forced to buy in data from regional shared services centres.

Although trusts accepted there were data quality problems, they said the impact on the ratings detracted from their achievements.

'We feel that we will be unfairly badged as a one-star trust, ' said Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnerships trust chief executive Mike Shewan.

Many mental health trusts have been formed from a number of organisations, some of which had poor information systems in place, and have staff in a number of locations where they have difficulty accessing central systems.

Cheshire and Wirral Partnerships trust chief executive Stephen Eames said the system ignored improvements at trusts.

'We failed on two data areas, both of which are submitted by external suppliers, but the line from the commission is rules are rules. Surely technicalities should not take precedent over the findings of the commission's 16-week clinical governance reviews?'