NHS England has announced extra investment totalling £120 million plus a set of new standards to accelerate improvements in mental health services, transforming care for patients and saving some precious cash at the same time.

The move follows long-term criticism of the state of mental health services in the country, a bleak picture in which around three-quarters of people are estimated to receive no treatment while those that do have to wait ages for it, community services are unaccessible*, and crisis care is in crisis with mental health beds in very short supply.

Under the new approach, a cash injection of £40 million in the current financial year will see £7 million go into ensuring that young people are no longer admitted to mental health beds far from where they live or inappropriately to adult wards, while £33 million will support people in mental health crisis and boost early intervention services, in the hope of securing better outcomes.

For 2015/16, NHS England has committed £80 million to help underpin new access and waiting times standards, as well as help those crisis get effective support in acute hospitals. The new standards call for 75% of people referred for talking therapies to start their treatment within six weeks and 95% within 18 weeks, and for at least 50% of those going through their first episode of psychosis to get NICE-approved help within two weeks of referral.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will say this morning (Wednesday) that the moves are part of a five-year ambition to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health services.

But crucially they are also expected to make “huge savings” for the NHS, including £44 million a year in reduced hospital admissions from improving early treatment for psychosis, and an average of £5 million a year per hospital through improvement of psychiatric liaison services in A&E departments.

*A recent survey by the Care Quality Commission revealed that 32% of people receiving community mental health services don’t know where to go if they need help while 20% of those that do fail to get the help they need.