Efforts to develop more sophisticated approaches to commissioning, funding and comparing mental health services could be helped by a new online database.

The National Mental Health Dementia and Neurology Intelligence Network, launched yesterday by Public Health England, brings together mental health data from 13 separate organisations into one single online resource for the first time.

It is being seen as a way to address long term concerns about data quality in mental health, and as a resource to help clinical commissioning groups make better informed commissioning decisions.

The network could also hasten the development of more sophisticated benchmarking and quality outcomes systems to underpin a payment by results tariff for mental health - a long term goal which has suffered repeated setbacks.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s national clinical director of mental health, told HSJ: “This totally links in with the work on [payment by results] and is the beginning of being able to get data across pathways.

“It will enable commissioners to see what effective treatments are being used, how good are the outcomes and ask are we getting value from the way we are spending public money.”

Clinical commissioning groups, clinicians and the public can interrogate the system using indicators about risk factors, prevalence, access to services, outcomes and finance.

The network was launched with four pilot tools which look at common mental health disorders, severe mental illness, community mental health and neurology.

Further work in children and young people’s mental health, co-existing mental health and addictions issues, as well as dementia are under development and are due to go live at the end of the year.

Dr Strathdee said the lack of joined up data in mental health had been one reason the sector struggled to have parity with physical health.

She said: “This is the beginning of a journey. The aim of the networks is to equip leaders with the knowledge and information they need to give us the very best services in mental health.

“I truly believe this will give us the greatest improvement in people with mental health and those at risk of getting it. It will do more than any other improvement when I think about it.”

Health minister Norman Lamb said: “I am absolutely determined to make sure mental health care is on par with physical healthcare. We have seen an institutional bias towards physical health; we know there are considerable numbers of people receiving substandard mental healthcare.

“These are changes which have been needed in mental health for a long time. Time and again we’ve seen that better information leads to better care. These networks will be hugely important to help providers use data and intelligence in ways that will help improve services.”

Data for the system comes from 13 organisations including the Health and Social Care Information Centre, NHS England, the Department of Health, Care Quality Commission, Monitor and PHE.

The network is one of five being developed with others including cancer, child and maternal health, cardiovascular disease and end of life care.