Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the government is to spend nearly £1 billion on improving mental health services across the country. 

More than £400 million is being set aside to help secure round-the-clock treatment for mental health patients in the community, “as a safe and effective alternative to hospital”.

Crisis resolution and home treatment teams have already been rolled throughout England as part of a transformation of the community mental healthcare system, but the extra funds will ensure “more complete coverage around the country,” according to the Department of Health.

Elsewhere, a cash injection of £247 million over the next five years will ensure that mental health services are available in every emergency department and that they are accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in at least half of England’s acute hospitals by 2020.

The move should not only boost the care of patients with mental illness in A&E, but also generate important savings for hospitals through fewer admissions and shorter stays, says the DH.

A £290-million investment has also been announced to improve the care of expectant or new mothers with mental health issues, giving at least 30,000 more women each year access to specialist mental healthcare before and after having their baby, while services to help teenagers with eating disorders such as anorexia, which kills more people than any other mental health condition, are also to be expanded.

New psychosis treatment target

Cameron has also unveiled a new waiting time target so that, from next year, at least half of those experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks, rising to at least 60% by 2020. 

The mental health taskforce report is due to be published in the next few weeks, unveiling plans for further investment and service expansion over the next five years, with the aim of transforming care. 

“Putting mental and physical health on an equal footing is a far reaching idea whose time has now come,” said Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England. “A sea change in public attitudes coupled with an increasing range of effective mental health treatments mean that now’s the time to tackle the huge unmet need that affects families and communities across the nation”.