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In-patient Mental Health Care

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

I wish to inform the House of the outcome of a competitive exercise for the provision of in-patient mental health care for our serving armed forces personnel.

The Ministry of Defence recognises mental illnesses as potentially serious and disabling conditions, but most can be successfully treated. Our mental health services are configured to provide community-based mental health care in line with the guidelines and standards set by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the National Service Frameworks.

We do this primarily by supporting our GPs with specialist out-patient assessment and treatment at our military regional departments of community mental health centres sited in military bases. Care is provided by either military mental health care professionals or civilians employed by the MOD. This means that serving personnel usually remain with their units and receive out-patient care in a military environment.

In-patient care may be required in a small number of cases. Where this is necessary, it is provided regionally in specialised psychiatric units under a contractual arrangement. Since 2003 this contract has been with the Priory Group. The contract with the Priory Group has worked very well and was extended for two years. In line with our usual commercial practice a competitive tendering exercise has now been conducted in order to place a new contract. I am now in a position to announce the outcome of that competition.

The evaluation process produced a clear winner—we have awarded the contract to the South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust who offered a powerful grouping of NHS providers to deliver a nationwide service.

The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust proposal offers a bespoke admission and treatment service based upon the needs of the MOD and of the individual patient. They offer a single point of contact for admissions and access to a series of dedicated beds across the United Kingdom. South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust describe their services as culturally sensitive and have proposed an in-patient care pathway that provides assessment and treatment in environments that would allow service patients to be accommodated in a separate area and be able to separate themselves from the civilian NHS population if they wished this and it was clinically appropriate. The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust’s philosophy and approach to in-patient care is consistent with that of the MOD and with generally accepted best practice; rapid assessment, stabilisation and return to care within the community as soon as possible.

The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust will provide locally based care through a network consisting of a group of five Foundation Trusts, one trust in the process of foundation trust application, and one NHS Scotland trust. These are: Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Grampian, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Somerset Partnership NHS Trust, and Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust. All of the trusts selected are rated good or excellent for their quality of care in the Healthcare Commission’s recent Annual Health Check. The South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust will act as the “network lead” and as such, will guarantee the quality and governance of the services provided. The foundation trust status of the winning bidder offers MOD access to services that are subject to unprecedented levels of corporate governance and are monitored by an independent regulator.

The MOD will work with the South Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Trust to implement a transition to the new contract that will cause minimal disruption to current and future patients. The Priory Group has agreed to extend the existing contract until the end of February 2009 to allow for a transition period.

When combined with care provided on operations by our deployed military mental health professionals, in military primary care and in military community mental health centres, I am confident that this contract represents a continuation of the combination of the best of external and internal providers to deliver mental health care to national standards of excellence.