Accessibility links


The RSA OPSN network aims to improve the accessibility and usefulness of public information about public services. To do this, we test new ways to present information and provide independent assessment of government and public services performance data.

This is our first project examining health, specifically mental health services in the UK. It was prompted when the Department of Health released its 2014 paper ‘Closing the gap: priorities for essential change in mental health’ in which it said:  

We need a truer, more up-to-date and more detailed picture of mental health and wellbeing nationally and in each area.

The specific objectives of the project were to:

  • Improve the accessibility of data about mental health services for the public and service users;
  • Present data in ways that provide insight by clearly identifying the availability and quality of services within local areas
  • Publish these as a new dataset under an open data license so that researchers can use it to better understand the care of mental health services;
  • Present this data in ways that improves accountability and engages the public and service users through better understanding of the services available to them.

The analysis of available data has provided four new composite measures of comparable outcomes for Clinical Commissioning Groups and local authorities in England. This has been used to produce an accessible web tool, which will help users of mental health service users to better understand data about how the physical health needs of people with serious medical illness (SMI) are being met at a primary care level.  The accompanying report explains our research process and approach.

The key questions asked were:

  1. How well is my GP looking after my physical health needs?
  2. What is the likelihood of getting access to the right psychological therapies, and what is the impact if I don’t?
  3. Am I more or less likely than average to be prescribed anti-depressants?
  4. How well am I helped to live well with my condition?

The driving principle of the project – guiding our analysis, web development and engagement with the expert panel – was to ensure that the data we were to communicate would have to be useful to service users. To this end we commissioned Mind to run two focus groups, one in London and one in Birmingham, on service user testing of the website.

Data analysis was undertaken by Professor Simon Jones, New York University, and David Mullett, University of Surrey. They produced composite indicators using OECD specification and best practice. While composite indicators have a degree of controversy often described as ‘too simplistic’ or masking underlying problems, we believe this is digestible for members of the public to quickly and easily understand how their local area is looking after their needs. See here for more about our methodology.