The NHS in England is to invest a further £120million over the next two years on improving mental health services.
The investment and the new standards for mental health services have been announced today by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as part of a five-year ambition that will see new waiting times standards and early intervention services introduced, helping to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health services.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s Chief Executive, said: “This is an important moment when we will bring parity of esteem for mental health services a step closer. Putting access and waiting standards in place across all mental health services, and delivering better integration of physical and mental health care by 2020, will bring us much closer towards that aim.”
Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, said: “This programme will start the journey to transform mental health care in England. Today people who present in crisis often wait too long for an assessment and to access treatment. This new approach will help improve crisis care and help reduce the distress that untreated mental illness brings. With 75 per cent of long term mental health problems diagnosed before 18, investing in early effective treatments will pay immediate and long term dividends.”
The new standards introduced from 2015/16 will be:
- 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies for treatment of common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, will start their treatment within six weeks and 95 per cent will start within 18 weeks.
- At least 50 per cent of people going through their first episode of psychosis will get NICE-approved help within two weeks of being referred.
Currently, most people who are referred for treatment for a physical health problem can expect to start their care within six weeks, with an absolute maximum wait of 18 weeks. The new plans mean mental health patients referred for talking therapies will be able to expect the same standards.
Similarly, people referred for urgent cancer treatment can expect to be seen within two weeks. The ambition is that people needing urgent care for first episode psychosis will be treated with the same urgency, no matter where they live.
Mental illness costs the country as much as £100 billion each year through lost working days, benefits and treating preventable illness but these plans are expected to make huge savings:
- improved access to talking therapies will help tackle the 70 million working days lost annually due to mental health problems;
- early treatment for people with psychosis could save the NHS £44million a year in reduced hospital admissions through people reaching crisis point;
- improved psychiatric liaison services in A&E departments could save each hospital an average of £5million a year by cutting down on admissions and length of stay.
The national standards will also help tackle the regional variation in very long waiting times for talking therapies as well as making sure that there is proper investment in making these services available to everyone who needs them within an acceptable time.
As well as the access standards, the plan also includes:
- Investment in liaison psychiatry services in acute hospitals so that more people than ever before who go to A&E in a mental health crisis – for example if they have self-harmed – will get the right help at the right time.
- An immediate £7million investment by NHS England to fund 50 new inpatient beds for children and young people and better case management so that children with specialist needs get the right care in the right place.
- Continued work of the Taskforce that was convened in August to bring together experts on children and young people’s mental health and make recommendations to improve services.
- Further investment in crisis services to make sure every local area signs up to the principles of the Crisis Care Concordat and makes sure anyone in a mental health crisis gets urgent, high quality care.
- Better physical health care for mental health patients including health checks and support with smoking cessation
- Support from NHS England for Clinical Commissioning Groups to make sure there is proper investment in local mental health services.
- Work to improve data collections on mental health and services to make sure people are getting the right care in the right place and at the right time.
Going forward, the plans will also look to:
- Develop access standards and waiting times where appropriate for every area of mental health.
- Make sure every person with a serious mental health problem will have a named clinician to coordinate their care.
- Extend Personal Health Budgets to people who use mental health services so that patients have more say in their care.