NHS England has set out plans to improve patient access to mental health services with a proposal to introduce five new waiting time guarantees.

The plans, part of the overall service expansion and improvement for mental health outline in the NHS Long Term Plan, outline plans to ensure patients who require urgent care will be seen by a community mental health crisis team within 24 hours of referral.

In addition, the plans would see mental health liaison services for individuals who enter A&E departments be rolled out to remaining sites across England.

Children, young people as well as their families or carers who present to community-based mental health services would also start to receive care within four weeks from referral under the new plans.

This would also apply to adults and older adults presenting to community-based mental health services under the new waiting time guarantees.

For children and young people, care could include 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.

“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, national mental health director for NHS England.

“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,” added Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind.