The NHS will take a step towards improving patient access to mental health services with the introduction of five new waiting time guarantees.
The proposals aim to ensure that patients requiring urgent care will be seen by community mental health crisis teams within 24 hours of referral, with the most urgent getting help within four hours. Mental health liaison services for those who end up in A&E departments would also be rolled out to remaining sites across the country.
‘These new standards represent another major step towards parity of esteem, ensuring people who need care know when they can expect to receive it and will support more rapid access to evidence-based treatment and support,’ said Claire Murdoch, the NHS’s National Mental Health Director.
‘They will help with work already underway with the NHS turning the tide in mental health for a range of conditions as part of the Long Term Plan. This includes thousands of women benefitting from specialist perinatal mental health care last year and improvements to our children and young people’s services meaning more children and young people are accessing treatment than ever before, including timely, evidence-based care for eating disorders.’
The proposed new standards include:
For an ‘urgent’ referral to a community based mental health crisis service, a patient should be seen within 24 hours from referral, across all ages;
For a ‘very urgent’ referral to a community based mental health crisis service, a patient should be seen within four hours from referral, for all age groups;
Patients referred from Accident and Emergency should be seen face to face within one hour, by mental health liaison or children and young people‘s equivalent service;
‘A huge number of people have developed a mental health problem since the start of the pandemic and some groups have been hit particularly hard, including young people, those on low incomes and people from racialised communities, but not got help early on. With increasing numbers of people reaching crisis point, it is critical that they get the right mental health support quickly, which these standards would help to achieve,’ said Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind.
‘Many thousands of people will be left with long term impacts from this period, whether because of bereavement, unemployment, trauma or the weathering effect of life during lockdown. Knowing that the NHS is committed to timely access to support could make all the difference as we emerge from the pandemic and plan for the future.’