People requiring support for their mental health are at risk of not getting the care they need and their conditions deteriorating due to increased demand brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, a report by the NHS Confederation has found.
The report warns that providers saw a 30-40% average reduction in referrals for mental health support but this was only temporary, with some providers now reporting the number of patients that they are treating is higher than pre-pandemic levels, and we expect this will rise sharply due to the backlog and because of the broader impact that the pandemic is having on the population’s mental wellbeing.
Some providers are predicting a 20% increase across all of their mental health services, while also facing a 10-30% reduction in how many patients they can care for at once because of the required infection control and social distancing measures.
‘Although being away from the political spotlight, mental health services across the country have faced unprecedented challenges due to coronavirus which they have responded to remarkably by innovating and moving to different ways of working to protect their patients and staff,’ said Sean Duggan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network.
‘But we must not be fooled into thinking that the worst is behind us. There is a rising tide in demand for NHS-funded mental healthcare associated with the pandemic, which we expect to remain high for some time and will be felt long after the physical health crisis across acute and community care subsides. Providers are facing this with reduced capacity across their services, with significant funding constraints, and with a workforce that is close to burnout due to vacancy levels and the pressures placed upon them.’
Added to this, concerns are growing about the resilience and retention of frontline mental healthcare professionals, particularly among BME staff who are at greater risk from COVID-19, with burnout and workforce shortages continuing to pose an issue on the horizon.
‘The widespread impact of this pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on the nation’s mental health. There should be no doubt that, without the proper prioritisation of resources and availability of services, tens of thousands of people will feel the long lasting effects of not being able to access the right care when they need it,’ said Brian Dow, Deputy CEO at Rethink Mental Illness.