New NHS mental health standards announced

A new set of mental health standards have been announced by NHS England and Improvement.

Claire Murdoch, the NHS’s National Mental Health Director, said: “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.

“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 new standards are a part of the NHS Long Term Plan, and will go through a consultation process which will run from the 21 July until 1 September. The public is invited take part in the consultation online and the standards have been supported by clinical and patient representatives including Mind, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Healthwatch.

The new standards are set out below and address a number of issues around mental health waiting times, care, and investment:

  • 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.
  • Children, young people and their families/carers presenting to community-based mental health services, should start to receive care within four weeks from referral. This may involve immediate advice, support or a brief intervention, help to access another more appropriate service, the start of a longer-term intervention or agreement about a patient care plan, or the start of a specialist assessment that may take longer.
  • Adults and older adults presenting to community-based mental health services should start to receive help within four weeks from referral. This may involve the start of a therapeutic intervention or a social intervention, or agreement about a patient care plan.
  • The NHS Long Term Plan, which sees investment in mental health rise by at least £2.3 billion a year in real terms by 2023/24, is delivering real improvements for patients.
  • The world-leading programme of talking therapies for adults with common mental illnesses sees more than one million patients per year, with more than half of those finishing treatment recovering, and there are 24/7 liaison services in 80% of general hospitals, up from only 39% in 2016.

The new standards come on top of existing measures of mental health access which are:

  • 75% of people referred to the Improving Access to Psychology Therapies (IAPT) programme should begin treatment within six weeks of referral and 95% of people referred to the IAPT programme should begin treatment within 18 weeks of referral.
  • More than 60% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis will start treatment within a NICE-recommended package of care with a specialist early intervention in psychosis service within two weeks of referral.
  • 95% of children and young people referred for assessment or treatment for an eating disorder should receive NICE-approved treatment with a designated healthcare professional within one week for urgent cases and four weeks for every other case.

Find out more about the standards, here.