Trust boards are drowning in 'Amazonian' levels of useless information, the latest Intelligent Board report from Dr Foster has found.

Launching the report, former NHS Appointments Commission chair Sir William Wells criticised the lack of helpful data available to managers and said the situation was worst in mental health.

The Intelligent Mental Health Board is the last in a series that has covered acute trusts, commissioning bodies and ambulance trusts.

The report says that instead of 'information overload', boards needed better access to data on performance and strategic matters.

Summarising the findings as chair of the steering group, Sir William said addressing the problem was 'the single most important task for the government'.

'The information challenge for mental health is the most challenging in the NHS. Trusts are having to sift through Amazonian amounts of information. I was struck by the complete inability to benchmark.'

This was of particular concern with the move to foundation status and choice, the steering group said.

Cross-organisational indicators are vital so mental health trusts can judge the impact that other agencies are having on care outcomes.

In addition, payment by results is set to have a significant impact on mental health services in the next few years and 'it will be critical for trusts to collect information on cost, activity and outcomes'.