Background: In the current economic climate, it is pertinent to consider how to improve quality within constrained resources in the NHS. High-quality care is not a new concept; however, recent government publications have focused significant attention on quality improvement.
'Lean' approaches have been successfully developed in manufacturing to improve quality, and their use has recently been advocated in the healthcare industry. Aims: The aim of this paper is to critically appraise the literature and to consider the applicability of 'lean' approaches
to healthcare – specifically, mental health. Methods: An electronic literature search of medical, healthcare management and business databases was undertaken to identify relevant papers using specific keywords. Results: Twenty-six papers were identified for critical
review, and their findings considered. Conclusions: Despite some evidence in support of 'lean', there remain multifarious challenges in the healthcare context. In mental health specifically, research literature is limited; however, 'lean' approaches have been used, and underpin
several recent initiatives. Though additional challenges become evident in a mental health setting, the majority apply to healthcare in general. More research evidence is required to encourage widespread application and engagement in 'lean' approaches in healthcare.