A valid quality system for mental health care: from accountability and control in institutionalised settings to co-creation in small areas and a focus on community vital signs
background In a given year, around 25% of the Dutch population may experience significant mental health problems, much more than the mental health service can attend to, given a maximum capacity of 6% of the population per year. Due to the lack of a public mental health system, there is fierce competition over who gets to receive care from mental health services and little control over how the level of needs can be matched with the appropriate intensity of care. As a result, resources are being wasted and both overtreatment and undertreatment are prevalent.
aim To propose a valid quality system that benefits the mental health of the entire population and does not simply attend to the symptoms of a strategically selected group.
method Literature review from an epidemiological and public mental health perspective.
results In our view, a valid quality system for mental health care needs to focus on two distinct areas. The first area involves the analysis of about 20 quantitative population parameters or ‘Community Vital Signs’ (care consumption, pharmaco-epidemiological indicators, mortality, somatic morbidity, social care, housing, work, benefits, involuntary admissions). This analysis will reveal regional variation in the mental health of the entire population rather than in the relatively small, selected group receiving mental health care. The second area to which attention needs to be directed comprises a system of simple qualitative visits to mental health care institutions based on 10 quality parameters that currently remain invisible; these parameters will measure the impact at local community level. The focus of these will be on a transition from accountability and control in large institutions to provision of care in small areas that was co-designed with users and other stakeholders.
conclusion A valid quality system for mental health care is within reach, provided it is combined with a novel system of public mental health and transition of care to a system of co-design with users in small areas.