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A revolution in mental health information – Dr Geraldine Strathdee

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, explains why new networks are so vital:

The Mental Health Intelligence Networks (MHIN) represent a revolution for the services we aim to provide.

Their launch represents the work of over 400 mental health experts from all sectors, including service users, public health, clinicians, academics, data analysts, health economists, quality improvement managers and others.

For far too long in mental health we have had to listen to the criticism that “mental health has no data”. The intelligence networks put paid to that view.

This remarkable collaboration has brought together the thirteen agencies that hold the forty-five rich sources of national mental health data. It has turned data into information and then into intelligence.

This is just the start of the journey. But it’s a journey that will, in time, over the coming years, fundamentally change the mental health provision of care in this country. The intelligence network, with its leaders, its intelligence, its spirit of collaboration and partnership, is key to helping us achieve parity of care for those with mental health.

But what will this mean in practice? What will it mean for patients? What will it mean for community leaders including commissioners and providers of services?

Very practically, the MHIN provides to each CCG commissioner and each local authority, information across the pathway of commissioned care, and enables local partners to work together to address the questions:

  • What type of community do we have? What are its assets?
  • What are its characteristics that will determine the types of conditions people may develop who live here?
  • What is the level of mental health need in our community?
  • What types of mental health conditions are more common in our area?
  • What can we do to support high risk groups avoid the development of illnesses?
  • To what extent have our primary care services been able to identify and recognize early illnesses such as depression and anxiety conditions, psychoses, children and young people’s conditions, dementia, eating disorders?
  • What services are commissioned in primary care mental health and by local social care?
  • What services are commissioned from specialists by the local CCG: for example, how many psychological therapists, how many employment supports, how many beds and what intensive treatment teams work locally?
  • What modern therapies recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) is available for patients?
  • How well do we spend our funding in this area? What are the outcomes for patients?
  • Where does this community need to work together to lead improvement?

So what are the plans for this work in the next year?

The intelligence we are providing is being tested by rapid adapter local commissioners and communities. We are very grateful to Liverpool, Devon and East London for their support.

This intelligence will form the basis of the mental health intelligence competency module for the national 211 CCG mental health leaders programme starting shortly.

Our strategic clinical networks and academic health science centres are using the intelligence to build ongoing courses and programmes, so that in the future, every commissioner and clinical leader will be able to access the competencies they need to support evidence based care to deliver the best outcomes for those wonderful people we serve, our mental health services users.


Dr Geraldine StrathdeeDr Geraldine Strathdee, OBE, MRCPsych, is the National Clinical Director for Mental Health, NHS England, a consultant psychiatrist in Oxleas NHS FT, and Visiting Professor, Integrated mental health education programme at UCL Partners. For over 20 years she has held senior roles in mental health policy, regulation and clinical management, at national and London regional levels, and advises internationally on mental health service design and quality improvement, while working as a practising clinician. She has been involved in transformational large scale service development programmes, moving services from hospital based, to 24/7 home care and primary care models, in roles which have included: the Trust Director of Clinical services in Oxleas NHS FT (2005-2007), Director of Service development at the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and Senior Lecturer, UMDS ( 1995-1998). She was the National Professional Adviser in mental health to the Healthcare Commission and the Care Quality Commission (2005-2012).

Her particular commitment is to the translation of policy and best practice evidence into front line routine clinical practice, empowering service users to reach their potential, and staff to maximise their time to care. She is passionate about the development of leadership competencies and using information to enable informed decision-making.

As London SHA Associate Medical Director (2009-2013), with responsibility for mental health, she led transformational change through the development of clinical networks for dementia and primary care mental health CCG leaders, developed ground breaking commissioning support care pathway profiling informatics tools, and high impact educational programmes. She was awarded the prestigious RCpsych Psychiatrist of the Year award in 2012.

Clinically experience:

Clinically, she has worked in a wide range of primary care, inpatient and community services, and latterly with people with complex and multiple needs, as a Consultant Psychiatrist for the Bromley Assertive Community Treatment team in Oxleas. She is committed to providing services which enable services users to live in their own homes, develop their own personalised care plans and self management expertise to achieve recovery, while at the same time working with community agencies to deliver coordinated, responsive, care pathways.

Service evaluation and research interests: Her teams have won awards for their use of technology in improving care, using patients as experts in staff training and leadership awards for new Ways of Working, the redesign of roles. Her research interests have included the fields of primary care mental health, evaluation of community services and dual diagnosis. Current research interests include the evaluation of competency based leadership programmes and clinical networks to drive transformational improvements, and high impact educational programmes.

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3 comments

  1. sally says:

    Please don’t forget the carers. There are many thousands of us who are unpaid and cared for themselves and are relied upon to look after our loved ones come what may.

    Carers frequently do not look after themselves but don;t even realise that they are putting their own health at risk. We need to be recognised and given help without having to ask for it

    And on another very important matter, there are nowhere near enough beds in mental health wards. I have personal experience of this and have seen people being admitted in the enveing and having to sleep on the floor as there was no bed mamager available after 5pm. However even when they came on duty the only way to get a bed was to discharge someone who wasn’t really ready to be discharged and then ended up having to come back to hospital which may not have happened ahd they been given the complete care they needed. Clearly all this can only add to the cost of menat; health care in the NHS

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Sally,

      Thank you very much for reminding us of the great importance of carers. We do intend to add further data on carers, both in terms of the support available to them and to those they care for in the information on the MHIN Fingertips website.

      For the future, one of the next developments of the MHIN website is to support commissioners to map the types of mental health beds and community teams in each area. We also want to identify the causes and triggers for admissions. If we know this, then local Health and Wellbeing boards can better understand how all the local agencies can work together to: prevent the difficulties that lead to a person needing an admission or an episode of intensive community team care; understand if the treatments needed to most improve care area are being provided in their local services; what factors that may be leading to a long length of stay and many other issues.

      The NHS benchmarking club gathers this data already and the HSCIC (Information centre) is producing a new national report in the autumn. These will help local commissioners plan their services.

      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  2. a great advance in data collection regarding mental health distress, with one caveat in the need to makes sure data is gained from the third sector and if possible smaller organisations , and with some focus on servcie user run and led operations, who can be missed out of the equation.

    non executive director
    Richmond Fellowship Group
    Making Recovery a Reality