Patients and service users routinely struggle to access mental healthcare across the NHS

The Government is being warned that mental health services cannot respond to modern mental healthcare challenges on their own and that ministers must outline a new vision for the future.

Healthcare leaders believe that this should focus on the publication of a long overdue ten-year cross government plan for mental health. Indeed, the key elements of a new vision for mental health are laid out in a new report from the NHS Confederation and Centre for Mental Health.

This report calls for action across workforce, funding and delivering services in innovative new ways, including offering more open access services to the public – all of which would help to provide faster access to care. Mental health leaders insist that without these new approaches, services will continue to deteriorate.

Recent figures showed a 16% increase in people using NHS mental health services, with a 30% rise among under-18s.

This rise in demand is having a knock-on effect across the NHS and recent reports suggested that almost four times as many people are waiting more than 12 hours in A&E before they can access mental healthcare compared to two years ago. Meanwhile, more than 16,000 adults and 20,000 children who should be in receipt of community NHS mental health services are not able to access the help they need every month.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, reflected: “Mental health leaders are now very concerned of the real and present danger that the services they run are under unsustainable pressure. With demand for mental health support outstripping supply and rising at a rapid rate, the government simply must do more.”

“With many people only now coming forward for help, the explosion in demand set against current levels of investment and workforce capacity means the provision of adequate care is becoming quickly unsustainable. This is not something that might happen in some far-off dystopian future – it is something that is already happening on our watch,” he added.

Ifti Majid, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, concluded: “There is no hiding from the fact that demand for mental health services is rising very rapidly and we are seeing a clear impact not just on mental health organisations and their staff but across the NHS and care system as a whole.

“We are now in the midst of a national crisis and to address this adequately we need to see a renewed focus from government accompanied by further investment – NHS mental health organisations cannot be left to tackle this alone.”