St Andrew’s Healthcare is a major provider of mental health inpatient services.

The charity fully supports the commissioning for quality and innovation (CQUIN) framework which makes a proportion of providers’ income conditional on quality and innovation, thereby helping to ensure that clinical quality and effectiveness is at the core of commissioning specialist mental health services.

The CQUIN scheme has been introduced as part of the new national contract which now governs the relationship between commissioners and providers of mental health and learning disability services. 

While many primary care trusts and specialist commissioning teams are already working hard to implement the new quality based payment framework, there has been a mixed response with some commissioners not adopting CQUIN for independent sector providers.

It is important to the sector that all commissioners adopt this important quality framework in its relationships with mental healthcare service providers, both NHS and independent sector.

Like many service providers, embracing the Department of Health’s initiative to introduce a new mental health and learning disability contract was a priority for St Andrew’s during the trial year in 2009/10. Part of this involved ensuring that the charity was fully prepared when the CQUIN framework became mandatory in April this year. Significant investment was made in improved systems and information gathering to ensure that the CQUIN requirements could be met, including the requirements of the NHS data network.

It is therefore a source of frustration that some commissioners have not yet implemented this mandatory new scheme, particularly in relation to services from independent providers. If this were to persist it could adversely affect the income of some of the very providers who are striving hardest to raise standards and provide the highest quality care. 

It is important that the CQUIN scheme is adopted consistently across both NHS and independent sector providers to ensure that quality and innovation is at the core of practice across the sector.

St Andrew’s remains optimistic that the CQUIN scheme will be adopted by all and has a firm commitment to embrace the changes to the benefit of both commissioners and service users.  Clearly, the intention of the scheme is to raise the quality of care and patient outcomes from all service providers irrespective of NHS or independent status and this is an approach that St Andrew’s will continue to follow.