Community mental health services

Community mental health services play a crucial role in delivering mental health care for adults and older adults with severe mental health needs as close to home as possible.

The NHS Long Term Plan and NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24 set out that the NHS will develop new and integrated models of primary and community mental health care.

A new community-based offer will include access to psychological therapies, improved physical health care, employment support, personalised and trauma informed care, medicines management and support for self-harm and coexisting substance use.

By 2023/24, this will enable at least 370,000 adults and older adults per year nationally to have greater choice and control over their care, and to live well in their communities.

This ambition is supported by an additional £1 billion new Long Term Plan funding per year by 2023/24 to ultimately transform the provision of community mental health care for adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses.

Watch our animation which explains Community Mental Health Transformation.

Under the Long Term Plan by 2023/24:

  • Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will have received funding to develop and begin delivering new models of integrated primary and community care for adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses (SMI).
  • These new models of care will span both core community provision and dedicated services, where the evidence supports them. The new models will be built around Primary Care Networks.
  • A total of 390,000 people with SMI will receive an annual physical health check.
  • A total of 55,000 people a year will have access to Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services.
  • New local funding will also be used to maintain and develop new services for people who have specific or additional needs, including Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP), complex mental health difficulties associated with a diagnosis of ‘personality disorder’, mental health rehabilitation and adult eating disorders.
  • There will be support for self-harm and coexisting substance use.

The new Community Mental Health Framework describes how the Long Term Plan’s vision for a place-based community mental health model can be realised, and how community services should modernise to offer whole-person, whole-population health approaches, aligned with the new Primary Care Networks.

It is a key resource to inform ICSs’ five-year planning process, and to support the effective spend of almost £1 billion new Long Term Plan funding per year by 2023/24.

In 2019/20 and 2020/21, 12 ICSs received over £70 million of additional funds to test new models of integrated care and four-week waiting times as part of the Clinically-led Review of NHS Access Standards:

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
  • Cheshire and Merseyside
  • Frimley
  • Herefordshire and Worcestershire
  • Hertfordshire and West Essex
  • Humber and North Yorkshire
  • Lincolnshire
  • North East London
  • North West London
  • Somerset
  • South Yorkshire
  • Surrey Heartlands

These early implementer sites have been leading the transformation of community mental health services in England in partnership with Primary Care Networks (PCN), as well as local authorities and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE), service users, families and carers, and local communities themselves.

From 2021/22 to 2023/24, all ICSs have received a fair share of transformation funding to implement these models locally, in addition to year-on-year increases in baseline funding for all ICSs to bolster community mental health provision (which started in 2019/20).

Care Programme Approach: position statement

The Community mental health framework replaced the Care Programme Approach (CPA) for community mental health services. It enables services to shift away from an inequitable, rigid and arbitrary CPA classification and bring up the standard of care towards a minimum universal standard of high-quality care for everyone in need of community mental healthcare.

This position statement has been developed in response to queries regarding the national policy position and direction of travel away from the CPA.

Since April 2021, all integrated care systems (ICSs) have received transformation funding to deliver new and integrated models of primary and community mental health care. The position statement will support ICSs to transform, expand and improve community mental health services in line with the framework.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS)

People with severe mental illness (SMI) have low rates of employment (6% vs 75% in the general population). Individual Placement and Support (IPS) is an employment support intervention involving intensive, individual support, a rapid job search followed by placement in paid employment, and in-work support for both the employee and their new employer. It is the best evidence-based approach to help people in this group get and keep a paid job.
As a key commitment in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (FYFVMH), NHS England committed to doubling access to IPS services nationally by the end of 2020/21, equating to 20,000 people with SMI accessing IPS services.

The Long Term Plan (LTP) committed the NHS to supporting an additional 35,000 people with SMI to find and retain employment by the end of 2023/24, a total of 55,000 people per year. This investment will support people to get back into, gain or retain access to employment where this is a personal goal for the individual. It will improve outcomes and recovery for people, meaning they spend less time in hospital and live healthier, happier lives.

To aid the expansion of IPS provision in England, NHS England are working with partners Social Finance to deliver IPS Grow, an infrastructure support initiative, which consists of: hands-on implementation support from a network of IPS experts; a workforce development programme; and tools for effective reporting, monitoring and evaluation of services.
A range of IPS Grow resources and guidance has been developed and is available for:

For more information on IPS, visit:

If you work in health or social care and would like further information on IPS services, please join our Futures platform (registration required). It is a collaboration platform for colleagues to work effectively and is a safe and secure place to save, access and share resources and content.

Adult Eating Disorders Guidance: Community, Inpatient and Intensive Day Patient Care

As part of work on community based mental health care for adults, alongside work to explore the effectiveness of different approaches to integrated delivery with primary care, NHS England are working to improve availability and access to community eating disorder services for adults. Guidance has been published to support commissioners and providers to achieve this.

This guidance will support the development and implementation of commissioner, provider and Integrated Care System plans to deliver effective community adult eating disorder services that are integrated with day and/or inpatient care to reduce admissions, length-of-stay and improve outcomes for users, families and carers. This is in line with NHS Long Term Plan ambitions to establish new and integrated models of primary and community mental health care for adults and older adults, including dedicated provision for groups with specific needs such as adults with eating disorders. This guidance also supports the roll-out of the Provider Collaborative (formerly New Care Models) programme to develop NHS-led Provider Collaboratives for adult eating disorder care.

See also the Children and Young People’s Eating Disorder Guidance.

If you work in health or social care and would like further information on Adult Eating Disorder services, please join our Futures platform. It is a collaboration platform for health and social care colleagues to work effectively and is a safe and secure place to save, access and share resources and content.

Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP)

People who experience psychosis can, and do, recover. The time from onset of psychosis to the provision of evidence-based treatment has a significant influence on long-term outcomes. The sooner people are able to access evidence-based treatment, the better the outcomes they achieve.

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health set the ambition that by 2021, at least 60% of people with a first episode psychosis (FEP) would start treatment with a NICE-recommended package of care with a specialist early intervention in psychosis service within two weeks of referral. The standard is two-pronged and both of the following conditions must be met for it to be achieved:

  • 60% of all people with FEP should have a maximum wait of two weeks from referral to acceptance into a specialist Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) service
  • 100% of all people with FEP who have been accepted into a specialist EIP service should be offered a NICE-recommended package of care, as appropriate for their individual needs

The take-up of NICE-recommended interventions is used as a proxy for measuring the second prong of the standard via the annual National Clinical Audit of Psychosis.

The EIP standard remains a priority of the NHS and the NHS Long Term Plan and NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24 set out continued commitment to the standard which is included in the Long Term Plan. They also specified that all areas should provide a service that covers an age range of 14-65 and has a provision for those with an ‘at-risk mental state’ (ARMS).

Guidance is available to support ongoing local implementation of the standard by commissioners and mental health providers, working with service users and their families, carers and other partners.

NHS England has worked closely with Health Education England in commissioning training places to support delivery of NICE recommended interventions, with a specific focus on cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis and family interventions.

NHS England has developed helpful resources for commissioners and EIP services to help them meet the EIP standard. Resources include technical guidance on reporting for the standard, frequently asked questions and good practice examples.

NHS England publishes regular statistics on performance against the waiting time element of the standard. Statistics up until and including September 2019 activity can be found here.

If you work in health or social care and would like further information on EIP services, please join our Futures platform (registration required). It is a collaboration platform for colleagues to work effectively and is a safe and secure place to save, access and share resources and content.

Improving physical health care for people with severe mental illness (SMI)

NHS England is committed to leading work to reduce the premature mortality among people living with severe mental illness (SMI).

People with SMI are at higher risk of poor physical health. Compared with the general patient population, patients with severe mental illnesses are at substantially higher risk of obesity, asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease. People with a long-standing mental health problem are twice as likely to smoke, with the highest rates among people with psychosis or bipolar disorder.

As set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, by 2023/24, the NHS will ensure that at least 390,000 people living with SMI receive physical health checks each year.

Improving Physical Healthcare for People with SMI Guidance details the action and collaboration required by commissioners and providers in primary and secondary care to improve access to and the quality of physical health checks and ensure appropriate follow-up care is given. Positive practice examples and tools can be found in the supporting annexes. Public Health England’s report provides more information on physical health inequalities for people with SMI.

NHS England publishes quarterly statistics on the number of people with SMI receiving a full physical health check.

A practical toolkit for mental health trusts and commissioners is also available to help providers and commissioners improve the physical health of patients with serious mental illness in secondary care. The toolkit looks at different approaches to implementing the Lester tool.

If you work in health or social care and would like further information on SMI physical health, please join our Futures platform (registration required). It is a collaboration platform for colleagues to work effectively and is a safe and secure place to save, access and share resources and content.

Demonstrating progress and building sustainability

  • The new Mental Health Services Data Set enables the routine capture and reporting of information regarding referral to response, assessment and treatment times, interventions delivered and outcomes.

Suicide prevention

Suicide prevention is a complex system-wide challenge which requires close working between the NHS, public health and partner organisations, tailoring evidence of what works to local need and determinants.

NHS England has built on the progress made in the Five Year Forward View, delivered in close partnership with public health and local authorities, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and Department of Health and Social Care.

Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) have received investment for a localised suicide prevention programme. This supports locally-led initiatives and there has been significant local autonomy on how it is implemented, as long as it is in line with published guidance. Plans have focussed on groups at highest risk of dying by suicide: 1. Middle-aged men, 2. people who self-harm, 3. people in contact with mental health services, and 4. new groups at risk due to the impact of the pandemic, including children and young people with a learning disability or autism.

To support this commitment, NHS England has commissioned a national Quality Improvement (QI) offer jointly delivered by The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) and The National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH).

Suicide Bereavement Support

For each person who dies, as many as 135 people can be impacted; and in many cases this may be an underestimate. We also know that people who are bereaved by suicide are at risk themselves, which makes it ever so important to support family and friends in the days, weeks, and months, after a bereavement.

All ICSs received funding to set up suicide bereavement support services from 2019, with the last wave of services open to referrals across England by the end of 2022. These services offer early contact with families bereaved by suicide, provide practical and emotional support and facilitate referral into other services as appropriate.

To enable delivery, we are working with partners Support After Suicide Partnership to deliver postvention bereavement implementation support in addition to a central hub of resources.

National funding profiles

National funding profiles can be found in the following document: NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24