Waiting time targets for teenagers with eating disorders are to be introduced for the first time as part of £1bn of investment for improving mental health care, the prime minister has announced.
From 2017, the increase in the number of patients under the age of 18 treated by a specialist mental health practitioner within one month of referral will be “tracked” in England.
“As a country, we need to be far more mature about this… [and have] more frank and open discussion”
The government announcement did not specify a target. However, the Department of Health told Nursing Times that 95% would be expected to be seen within this timeframe by 2020.
Those who require urgent care will be expected to be seen within a week, also in 95% of cases by 2020, the DH confirmed to Nursing Times.
The new waiting target will be introduced as part of an expansion of services for teenagers with eating disorders.
Additional investment and details on this expansion are due to be announced in the coming weeks, following publication of a report by the government’s mental health taskforce, which will include a five-year “roadmap” for services.
Under the coalition government, waiting time targets were for the first time brought in for patients with depression and also those experiencing a first episode of psychosis, due to be fully introduced by this April.
An additional £1.25bn for a “major expansion” of mental health services for children and mothers of new babies was also confirmed by the coalition government last year. In last year’s spending review an additional £600m funding for mental health was announced.
Plans laid out today by David Cameron show how some - £1bn - of this previously announced investment will be used.
An additional £290m will be provided to mental healthcare services for new mothers, distributed over the next five years.
This will mean at least 30,000 more women each year will have access to care through services, such as new community perinatal teams and more beds in mother and baby units, said the Department of Health in a statement.
“This is a significant moment for mental health and we are pleased to see the prime minister giving it the attention it deserves”
Liaison mental health services in emergency departments will receive £247m to ensure at least half of all hospitals in England by 2020 can provide this 24-hour specialist service.
Meanwhile, £400m is to be allocated to round-the-clock community teams offering crisis resolution and home treatment as an alternative to hospital care for patients with mental ill health.
In today’s announcement, the prime minister said: “Mental illness isn’t contagious. There’s nothing to be frightened of.
“As a country, we need to be far more mature about this. Less hushed tones, less whispering [and] more frank and open discussion,” he said.
“We need to take away that shame, that embarrassment, let people know that they’re not in this alone, that when the clouds descend, they don’t have to suffer silently,” said Mr Cameron.
“I want us to be able to say to anyone who is struggling, ‘talk to someone, ask your doctor for help and we will always be there to support you’,” he added.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of charity Mind and chair of NHS England’s mental health taskforce, said: “This is a significant moment for mental health and we are pleased to see the prime minister giving it the attention it deserves.
“Mental health is hugely important in any discussion about improving life chances and mental health problems can affect anyone, from mums-to-be preparing for their first child to older people at risk of isolation,” he said.
“It is disappointing that the prime minister has nothing to say on prevention…The pressure on our mental health services is becoming unsustainable”
However, former Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb claimed there was still much more to be done to ensure the governement fulfilled its commtiment to ensuring equal access to services for physical and mental health.
Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, Luciana Berger, said the additional funding was “too little too late” for patients due to mental health services having been cut in recent years.
“It is also disappointing that the prime minister has nothing to say on prevention,” she said.
”The pressure on our mental health services is becoming unsustainable. It it is deeply worrying that so little attention is given to preventing people from needing these services in the first place. The cuts to public health budgets over the coming years will only make this job harder,” she added.