Health leaders have welcomed the introduction of the new proposed standards for mental health services, but warn that adequate funding must be allocated to the sector to ensure targets are met. 

Under the new proposals, which were consulted on last year, people with urgent mental health needs should be seen by a community crisis team within 24 hours.

The plans also say that emergency patients should be seen by face-to-face by specialist teams within an hour of a referral from A&E, and people seeking non-urgent mental health support in the community should be seen within four weeks.

The NHS say they will now work with the government and stakeholders to ensure these ambitions are achieved as quickly as possible, ahead of any formal performance thresholds being set in the future.

'Wide-spread support' for the measures

Claire Murdoch, the NHS’s National Mental Health Director said the proposals are “good news” for patients and if agreed, “will ensure they get timely access to mental health services, when they need them most.”

“The national consultation showed wide-spread support for these measures from charities, stakeholders and NHS staff, with eight in ten people backing the proposed new standards, which will ensure patients who need care know when they can expect to receive it and will support more rapid access to treatment and support,” she added.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network, said that health leaders will “welcome” the introduction of the proposed new standards, as “mental health services have not had comparable performance metrics to physical healthcare for far too long, which has created barriers to understanding the extent of the challenges they face.”

“While the targets in themselves won’t lead to improvements,” he says “they will increase transparency for patients and the wider public, allow NHS teams to measure their progress, and they can help shine a brighter light on the need for more targeted resources for services.”

None of the funding in the spending review specifically allocated for mental healthcare

With around 1.6 million people waiting for specialised support for their mental health in England and around 1 in 10 consultation psychiatrist posts are unfilled Mr Duggan says it is now important that government funding is ringfenced for the mental health sector.

Currently, he explains, “none of the NHS’s allocation in the Government’s comprehensive spending review was specifically identified for mental healthcare, and this will make performance against the standards very challenging for the mental health sector.

“The introduction of these proposed standards should be part of the recovery plan that is essential for supporting mental healthcare to respond to the rising demand they are seeing for their services.”