Supported housing’s potential in mental health care under-estimated, says new briefing

11 February

Supported housing services that provide a bridge to independent living after a hospital admission have been under-estimated for their potential both to improve people’s lives and to reduce the costs of mental health care, according to an analysis published today by Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network.

Mental health and housing, by Nick O’Shea, reviews evidence about the benefits of supported housing services that provide intermediate care between hospital and home for people with a mental illness. It finds that health and housing providers have initiated a range of innovative services to meet people’s needs in local areas. But there is little evidence about how well they have worked and their potential benefits. This has held back investment in intermediate care services.

The briefing sets out a new framework for evaluating mental health and housing services. It shows what data would be needed to make a clear business case for supported housing services.

Centre for Mental Health chief economist Nick O’Shea said: “For many people coming out of hospital, supported housing can provide an important bridge back to independent living. But there is little robust evidence to show the benefits of this investment, or to know what models work for which people in which circumstances. This has held back investment in services that could make a big difference to people’s lives. They remain under-valued and often poorly understood.

“Our framework provides health and housing organisations with a means to evaluate how well they are working. We hope it will be used to give supported housing services the rigorous evidence they need to ensure more people can benefit in future from the best approaches to transitional support between hospital and home.”

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, said: “Successful supported housing has been shown to reduce out-of-area placements and improve patient experience and outcomes. Mental health trusts are interested in investing in these types of pathways, given the wide range of benefits to patients, but lack a blueprint for how housing provision should be delivered.

“We hope the evaluation framework within this briefing will help providers build the evidence needed to incentivise investment in these alternatives to acute beds, with the ultimate ambition of improving patients’ lives and reducing the cost of their care.”

Download the report here

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