NHS England and Public Health England have launched a new mental health intelligence network to improve access to mental health data and help providers to work more collaboratively.

The Mental Health Dementia and Neurology Intelligence Network is hosted by Public Health England and co-sponsored by NHS England.

The network will collect mental health data from 13 different national agencies, including the Department of Health, the Health and Social Care Information Centre, and academic health science networks.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, told EHI the launch of network should address concerns about a potential lack of mental health data.

 “It’s always been said in mental health that we don’t have any data and I’ve had to grit my teeth, because it’s absolutely interesting how much data there is, but we haven’t had the experts to help us to put it all in one place.”

Strathdee said the network will collect data related to the prevalence of mental health conditions in an area compared to predicted levels, allowing health providers to see where they can improve and help to prevent complications.

 “If you take a community or population, whether it’s at a clinical commissioning group level or a local community level, people want to know how common particular problems or concerns are in their community.

“You have to think about who are the particular groups of people, if we don’t act early, who are at a higher risk of developing conditions.”

The network will also collect data on what mental health services are being commissioned and their success rates, information on inpatient beds, healthcare spends, and the number of people escalating to specialist services.

Strathdee said the aim of the project is to provide data for health providers to use collaboratively to improve their mental health services.

“When we have that information all together for a population, we can have a really constructive and collaborative dialogue about the level of need, who needs to be supported locally, who’s escalating to the top resources and how many could have been scaled down.”

The network will also develop evidence-based tools on “what good looks like” for providers to use.

Strathdee said the next phase of the network will involve recruiting more analysts and working with the DH to formalise the information-sharing arrangements.

 The network is also building expert reference groups with people who have knowledge of and an interest in data.

“We need the blow by blow translated: if you’re a GP, this is how I might want to interpret it, expert academics, and so on.”

Strathdee said the data will form the basis of the mental health intelligence competency module for the national CCG mental health leaders programme starting shortly, and will also be used to build other courses and programmes.

Health Minister Norman Lamb said the new network will be “hugely important” in helping providers to use data and intelligence to improve their services.

“Time and again we’ve seen that better information leads to better care…I am absolutely determined to make sure mental health care is on a par with physical health care.”