Objective: To estimate the cost and impact of a centrally-driven quality improvement initiative in four UK mental health communities. Methods: Total costs in year 1 were identified using documentation, a staff survey, semi-structured interviews and discussion groups. Few outcome data were collected within the programme so thematic analysis was used to identify the programme’s impact within its five broad underlying principles. Results: The survey had a 40% response. Total costs ranged between £164,000 and £458,000 per site, plus staff time spent on workstreams. There was a very hazy view of the resources absorbed and poor recording of expenditure and activity. The initiative generated little demonstrable improvements in service quality but some participants reported changes in attitudes. Conclusions: Given the difficult contexts, short time-scales and capacity constraints, the programme’s lack of impact is not surprising. It may, however, represent a worthwhile investment in cultural change which might facilitate improvements in how services are delivered
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