Linkage of routinely collected NHS data to evaluate liaison mental health services: challenges and lessons learned

Guthrie E, House A, Smith C, Relton S, Romeu D, Saraiva S, Trigwell P, West R, Shuweihdi F, Crawford M, Fossey M, Hewison J, Hulme C, Tubeuf S
Record ID 32018012112
Authors' objectives: Liaison mental health services provide mental health care to patients in acute hospital settings. Evaluation of liaison services is challenging due to their heterogeneous organisation and delivery, high case throughput and varied patient case mix. We aimed to link routinely collected National Health Service data from secondary care settings, chosen for their service characteristics, to data from primary care to evaluate hospital-based liaison mental health services in England. Liaison mental health services are based in acute general hospitals and provide assessment and treatment for people who have both physical and mental health problems.
Authors' results and conclusions: Obtaining approvals for the steps prespecified in the methodological protocol took 907 days. Enactment following approvals took 385 days. Data supplied from Hospital Episode Statistics contained 181,063 patients from 6 hospitals (mean = 30,177, standard deviation = 28,875.86) who matched the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data supplied from ResearchOne contained 33,666 (18.6%) of these patients from the 6 hospitals (mean = 5611, standard deviation = 5206.59). Although it is technically feasible to link primary and secondary care data, the current system is challenging, complicated, unnecessarily bureaucratic, time consuming and costly. This limits the number of studies that could be conducted with these rich data sources. We experienced significant difficulties in being able to link the National Health Service data from the different organisations we approached. The whole process was extremely complex, and a delay in one part of the process resulted delays in other parts. We eventually had to abandon the research without obtaining any meaningful data, although the lessons we learnt will be useful for other researchers, so they can avoid experiencing similar problems. Routinely collected National Health Service data from primary care and secondary care can be linked using the approaches we tried, but we were unable to complete the process within the time frame of the research programme, even with time extensions. Current processes need to be streamlined and standardised with designated clear response times for the different organisations.
Authors' methods: We planned to compare patients referred to hospital-based liaison services with comparable patients in the same hospital not referred to liaison services and comparable patients in hospitals without any liaison services. We designed and enacted a methodology to link data from: (1) Hospital Episode Statistics, a database controlled by the National Health Service Digital and (2) ResearchOne, a primary care database controlled by The Phoenix Partnership. We tried to link data from routine National Health Service sources for hospital and primary care, to compare patients referred to liaison mental health services with similar people in each hospital who had not been referred, and similar people in hospitals without any liaison services at all. We planned to find out how long these people stayed in hospital, whether they were re-admitted and how much was their healthcare cost was.
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2024
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • Mental Health Services
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated
  • Psychiatric Department, Hospital
  • Mental Disorders
  • Referral and Consultation
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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