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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness



Why focus on inpatient wards?

  • Recent developments in mental health services have focused on community-based services.  This has often led to a diluted focus on improving inpatient services.
  • Recent research has found that service users often find admission to hospital a distressing experience, leading to increased social exclusion and isolation.
  • An unremitting focus on the negative aspects of inpatient care has meant that the excellent work staff often do under difficult circumstances has gone unrecognised.


Why is accreditation important?

  • Services are able to demonstrate the quality of care they provide to service users and carers, their wider organisation and commissioners.
  • Services are able to demonstrate that they meet national guidelines and standards.  This can form part of the information they provide to regulatory bodies, as recommended by the National Quality Board.
  • Information gathered through the accreditation process can be used in trust quality accounts, as recommended by the National Quality Board, and mandatory for the first time this year.
  • Achievement of accredited status may support services to reduce their financial contribution to the NHSLA.


The benefits of the accreditation process

  • A wide range of stakeholders are involved, including staff from all professional backgrounds, service users and their carers and partner organisations.
  • Development support: services are supported to identify and address areas for improvement.
  • Active ongoing network support: members are supported to share best practice, seek advice and pool learning through a regular newsletter, email discussion group, annual conference and publication of resources on a members-only website.
  • Sharing good practice: services are engaged with a network of peers, enabling sharing of good practice and providing a forum for advice and information sharing.
  • Personal development: individuals receive training and are able to improve their professional practice.
  • Spread of learning within the organisation: learning and innovations arising from the process are often spread beyond the participating service to other services within the organisation.
  • Benchmarking and trend analysis: we produce an annual national report enabling services to benchmark their own performance against other services, and identifying trends in service provision.


The principles underpinning our work

  • Focused on excellence: we believe that all services for people with mental health problems should provide high quality care.  We seek to work in ways that support and enable services with development needs to improve and those that are performing well to aspire to excellence. 
  • User-centred: we believe that the experience of people using services is key to the design and delivery of high quality care.  For this reason, from the design of our programme to our work with individual services, we seek to engage people with real experience of using services, their carers and representative organisations.
  • Aligned with the performance management and regulatory framework: we know that teams and organisations need to be able to demonstrate the quality of the care they provide.  Our work is aligned with national standards and requirements as well as acknowledged best practice.   
  • Locally owned: we believe that real improvements can only be achieved when those who need to make change happen are fully involved.  The work of AIMS is led by front-line staff, engages senior service managers and involves patients and their carers.
  • Multi-disciplinary: We know that providing excellent services does not depend on one professional group.  AIMS is endorsed by and run in partnership with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Psychological Society, the College of Occupational Therapists and the Royal College of Nursing.


Who should join? - the seven branches of AIMS

There are currently six branches of AIMS.  For further information on any one branch, please follow the relevant link below:


  • AIMS-WA for working-age adult admission wards
  • AIMS-AT for assessment/triage wards
  • AIMS-OP for wards for older people
  • AIMS-PICU for psychiatric intensive care units
  • AIMS-LD for inpatient learning disability services
  • AIMS-Rehab for inpatient rehabilitation units
  • AIMS-QED for adult inpatient eating disorder services


Where next...

21 Prescot Street, London E1 8BB

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