Background: Concerns have been raised about inpatient mental health care. An accreditation model can improve compliance with standards associated with improved quality of health care.
Aims: To explore the effects of a standards-based, peer review, accreditation model on standards of care in acute inpatient wards and explore how staff achieved change.
Method: Quality of care was assessed by independent peer review against evidence-based standards in an accreditation process. Staff from the 11 wards receiving subsequent accreditation were interviewed to find out what processes had enabled accreditation.
Results: Sixteen wards enrolled: four achieved immediate and 11 subsequent accreditation. The most common reasons for initial failure of accreditation were lack of psychological therapies or 1:1 time for patients, and presence of ligature points. Ward staff perceived the accreditation process improved communication, gave power to negotiate for resources, clear guidance how to practice, rewarded good practice and led to additional unrelated improvements in care.
Conclusions: Acute wards need to attend to basic safety and provide talking treatments (both formal psychotherapy and basic time spent with patients). An accreditation, peer-reviewed, standards-based process can enable staff to feel confident about improvements in the quality of care.