The Association of Mental Health Providers has created the first-ever England-wide mapping tool to measure mental health service provision, helping to identify gaps in service.

Working in partnership with mapping and spatial analysis experts Esri UK, the Association has combined data from its members and other mental health service providers, with demographic data. The interactive map then helps users understand where gaps in provision are, information that can be used to help build cases for future government funding.

The map is freely available to Integrated Care Systems (ICS), local councils, government and other decision and policymakers in the mental health and social care sector. In addition voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) providers – of which the Association of Mental Health Providers is one – also have access.

The digital mapping tool will help give stakeholders access to robust and compelling data that can be used to help with planning, strategies and funding from national to local level.

Kathy Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Mental Health Providers said: “With this tool revealing there are 884 VCSE organisations supporting the 843 CQC registered providers, it will be a vital element in planning and funding regional health service provision. Crucially, the tool will unlock patterns and identify gaps in mental health service provision to inform decision-making within ICS.”

She continued: “Through this powerful new tool, we look forward to reducing health inequalities by improving access to mental health services within local communities. As a result, we believe it will reduce the pressure on acute, crisis and urgent services within the NHS.”

Beneficial to ICSs

The new tool is expected to be particularly valuable to the 42 ICSs, who require an accurate, integrated picture of their populations and healthcare services. Using the map, they can now reveal areas where there is insufficient mental health service provision to help them make informed commissioning decisions.

It incorporates data from the NHS, Care Quality Commission, VCSEs, as well as other population and demographic data from the ArcGIS Living Atlas, which includes Census data and some curated data sourced from the Office of National Statistics.

Duncan Booth, head of health and social care at Esri UK, said: “By integrating different data sources and giving the data a location, a much-needed ‘single view of the truth’ has been created, providing mental health service decision-makers with valuable new insights.”

With mental health services in the NHS stretched already, a number of organisations are trying to plug the gap. This year alone we’ve seen charity, Future Care Capital launch two new tools to improve access to digital mental health tools, and Headspace Health roll out new services to its mental health platform for organisations to offer their employees.