Referrals for specialist NHS mental health care reached a record high in England by the end of 2021, data released by NHS Digital shows.
There were 4.3 million referrals, for conditions such as anxiety and depression, in 2021. Of this, just under a quarter, 1.025 million, were for children or adolescents.
When the Omicron variant of Covid-19 arrived in December, a record one million people were receiving specialist treatment for conditions including addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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‘As the pressure on services continues to ratchet up, the silence from government continues to be of grave concern for the College, the wider mental health workforce and, most importantly, our patients,’ said Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
‘The warning of the long tail of mental ill health caused by the pandemic has not been heeded. Many thousands of people will be left waiting far too long for the treatment they need unless the government wakes-up to the crisis that is engulfing the country.’
The most recent data on children and young people’s eating disorders found record numbers are waiting for routine care and only 59% of those waiting for urgent care are seen within one week.
Hundreds of adults are also being sent far from home for treatment because of a lack of beds in their area, a practice that would be completely unacceptable in physical health services and must urgently be addressed in mental health.
‘Staff are working flat-out to give their patients the support they need but the lack of resources and lack of staff mean it’s becoming an impossible situation to manage,’ said Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
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‘We don’t need warm words or empty commitments. We need a fully funded plan for mental health services, backed by a long-term workforce plan, as the country comes to terms with the biggest hit to its mental health in generations.’