• CQC inspectors will now assess how well acute trusts care for mental health patients needs
  • Mental health inspectors will take part in acute hospital inspections
  • The regulator will look at service quality, safety, staff training and observations

The Care Quality Commission is now targeting the care of mental health patients in acute hospitals during routine inspections.

The watchdog has asked its inspectors to look at how acute trusts care for the needs of mental health patients beyond their physical health needs.

It is part of wider efforts to deliver parity of esteem for mental health patients who can have their mental health needs overlooked in acute settings.

The regulator has changed its key lines of enquiry for inspectors to follow when examining trust core services with updated tools, guidance and training for inspection staff.

A mental health inspector is also now joining NHS acute trust inspections in some circumstances and will be asked to consider the care of mental health patients detained in accident and emergency departments, for example, or where they are looked after on a ward.

The changes to the CQC’s regulatory approach were made in September last year after a public consultation, and have now been confirmed to HSJ.

The CQC expects acute trusts to demonstrate how the mental health needs of patients are met, including what interventions are offered, the training of staff in mental health conditions and how the trust works with specialist mental health services.

The evidence on mental health care now forms part of the CQC’s judgement for each core service, including the well led domain.

Acute trusts do not receive an individual rating for mental health care.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals said: “We know from our inspections that some acute trusts are doing this well, we have also found others where improvements are needed to ensure that environments are safe, that staff receive appropriate training and that triage processes and patient observations allow for the appropriate level of specialist mental health support to be provided…

“Our findings will be included in published inspection reports to support and encourage improvement, highlight good and outstanding care, and identify where action is needed to ensure parity of esteem for mental health patients in acute settings.”