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Lib Dems back first NHS standards on waiting times for mental health services

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Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, has announced that NHS England will invest £120million into mental health services from next year. This money will go towards introducing the first ever waiting times for mental health services.

From April 2015, 75 per cent of patients needing talking therapies will be guaranteed treatment within six weeks and 95 per cent will start within 18 weeks, he said. This brings mental health waiting times on to a par with physical health problems. Talking therapies are required for conditions such as depression and anxiety.

At least 50 per cent NHS patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis will receive NICE-approved treatment within two weeks of referral, matching the current target for cancer patients. The money will also be used to improve psychiatric liaison services in A&E departments.

£7m will be invested immediately to fund 50 new inpatient beds for children and young people and better case management to ensure children receive specialist care.

The £120m sum will be split. £40m will be spent between now and 1 April 2015. The following £80m will be spent in 2015-16.

Mr Clegg said: 'It's wrong that relatives and friends needing a hip operation can expect treatment within a clear timeframe but someone with a debilitating mental health condition has no clarity about when they will get help.

'For years, NHS waiting standards have existed for patients with physical ailments and they have drastically cut long waits. Now we are finally ending the injustice of people with mental health conditions waiting far too long for treatment with the first ever waiting time standards for NHS mental health services.'

In an article published in the HSJ Mr Clegg also revealed plans to increase the level of funding for mental health services if the Lib Dems form part of the next government. He said that he and his party want 'at least half' of the promised £1billion increase in NHS funding to be spent on mental health. This was a 'top priority' for the Lib Dems, he said. However, skepticism around allocation of the NHS budget was expressed online by readers of HSJ.

These announcements precede World Mental Health Day on 10 October, which will focus on schizophrenia.

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