Effects of the first COVID-19 lockdown on quality and safety in mental healthcare transitions in England

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Background The COVID-19 pandemic forced the rapid implementation of changes to practice in mental health services, in particular transitions of care. Care transitions pose a particular threat to patient safety. Aims This study aimed to understand the perspectives of different stakeholders about the impact of temporary changes in practice and policy of mental health transitions as a result of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on perceived healthcare quality and safety. Method Thirty-four participants were interviewed about quality and safety in mental health transitions during May and June 2020 (the end of the first UK national lockdown). Semi-structured remote interviews were conducted to generate in-depth information pertaining to various stakeholders (patients, carers, healthcare professionals and key informants). Results were analysed thematically. Results The qualitative data highlighted six overarching themes in relation to practice changes: (a) technology-enabled communication; (b) discharge planning and readiness; (c) community support and follow-up; (d) admissions; (e) adapting to new policy and guidelines; (f) health worker safety and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated some quality and safety concerns such as tensions between teams, reduced support in the community and increased threshold for admissions. Also, several improvement interventions previously recommended in the literature, were implemented locally. Discussion The practice of mental health transitions has transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting quality and safety. National policies concerning mental health transitions should concentrate on converting the mostly local and temporary positive changes into sustainable service quality improvements and applying systematic corrective policies to prevent exacerbations of previous quality and safety concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere156
Pages (from-to)e156
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry Open
Issue number5
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Inpatient treatment
  • care transitions
  • qualitative research
  • quality and safety


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