Mental health access and waiting time standards

Alongside other national partners, including the Department of Health, we are introducing access and waiting time standards for mental health services.

In October 2014, NHS England and the Department of Health jointly published Improving access to mental health services by 2020. This set out a clear vision to ensure mental and physical health services are given equal priority in terms of timely access to high quality services.

We have set out guidance for how new access and waiting time standards for mental health services are to be introduced, which explains the case for change in four areas and sets out the expectations of local commissioners for delivery during the year ahead working with providers and other partners.

To support commissioners and providers, we have published guidance explaining how indicators for referral to treatment are constructed and confirms the data that will need to be submitted to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. Improving Access to Psychological Therapies was the first standard to be implemented in 2015/16. This document explains what data is required to be submitted to the IAPT data set. For further details on the IAPT data set visit the HSCIC website.

In 2016 further guidance was developed to support the Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) standard and development of a standard for Children and Young People (CYP) with an Eating Disorder (ED) Guidance for Reporting Against Access and Waiting Time Standards: CYP ED & EIP and an FAQs document (EIP content updated March 2017). The document explains how the indicators for the referral to treatment waiting time elements of the two standards are constructed and confirms the data that will need to be submitted as part of the new Mental Health Services Data Set (MHSDS) to measure progress and inform future development.

Additional guidance, produced jointly with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is available to support improvements for people experiencing first episode psychosis.

Implementing the early intervention in psychosis access and waiting time standard guidance aims to support ongoing local implementation of the standard by commissioners and mental health providers, working collaboratively with service users and their families, carers and other partners. Additional resources are available in a helpful EIP resources pack. These documents supplement the technical guidance on EIP and CYP Eating disorders above.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists College Centre of Quality Improvement has published a baseline audit from 2014/15 showing variation among Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP services) in delivery of NICE-recommended interventions; a core requirement of the EIP Access and Waiting Time Standard .

Carried out on NHS England’s behalf, this audit and a self-assessment tool, also published by the CCQI, will support the development of EIP services to deliver the full NICE-recommended package of care.

All EIP services are expected to complete the self-assessment in 2016/17 and take part in a scoring and validation process.  This work will sit alongside ongoing monitoring of the referral to treatment time strand of the EIP standard.