• Trust chief executives tell HSJ being rated as outstanding gives them more power to share best practice and help other mental health providers
  • Northumberland, Tyne and Wear FT chief executive says the rating could make it a “go-to” trust for organisations needing support
  • There have been no discussions about creating mental health hospital chains to spread best practice

The chief executives of two mental health trusts rated outstanding have said the rating will give them more power to drive improvements and help other providers in the sector.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust and East London FT were both given the top rating by the Care Quality Commission on Thursday.

However, NTW chief executive John Lawlor and Navina Evans at East London said there have not been discussions about forming mental health hospital chains to spread best practice, similar to the vanguard new care models being drawn up in the acute sector.

The leaders of both trusts told HSJ that being rated outstanding adds weight to their voices to lobby on behalf of the sector and improves their ability to share best practice nationally.

Mr Lawlor said his trust has already worked with NHS Improvement on mental health improvement models and offered help to organisations that need support, but there was always room to get better.

He added: “We have been involved with the trusts and NHS Improvement to support other trusts in need of help and guidance, we are already doing that and I would hope this outstanding assessment will give us more ability to share what we are doing.

“NHS Improvement have involved some of our staff in developing their improvement model, clearly we would like to build on that and become even more of a go-to organisations for trusts which need support.”

But he said there have been no talks about outstanding mental health trusts running chains of hospitals. Four high performing acute trusts were last month given new powers by NHS Improvement to lead groups or chains of hospitals as part of the vanguard projects.

Mr Lawlor said: “I don’t think there has been much of a conversation about whether there’s a chain opportunity here – it’s a bit different in mental health, particularly for us because we are a big provider.

“But rather than necessarily looking at the chains, we are looking at things we can offer other mental health providers.

“Whether it becomes something as big as the chains process is something we will have to look at.”

Dr Evans – who became chief executive at East London in August – said her trust will be sharing information about best practice with NTW and looking to support and learn from other trusts.

She added: “[Sharing information] is something we are very interested in doing.

“We are talking to NHS Improvement about some of the work we are doing. John [Lawlor] and I thought it would be a good idea to share what we are doing, learning from each other and what we can do to support other trusts.”

Mr Lawlor described the information sharing as a “twinning” exercise, and said the two trusts could use their combined voice to lobby on behalf of the sector.

He added: “Clearly there are going to be things they are doing that might be better than us. We are going to have a twinning exercise between the two trusts to share things.

“We have an outstanding trust in the south and one in the north, we would hopefully be able to use that collective voice to be able to lobby for people with mental health and disability needs.”

First mental health trusts rated outstanding by CQC