Millions of patients in England face dangerously long waits for mental health care unless ministers urgently draw up a recovery plan to tackle a “second pandemic” of depression, anxiety, psychosis and eating disorders, NHS leaders and doctors have warned.
The Covid crisis has sparked a dramatic rise in the numbers of people experiencing mental health problems, with 1.6 million waiting for specialised treatment and another 8 million who cannot get on the waiting list but would benefit from support, the heads of the NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have told the Guardian.
In some parts of the country, specialist mental health services are so overwhelmed they are “bouncing back” even the most serious cases of patients at risk of suicide, self-harm and starvation to the GPs that referred them, prompting warnings from doctors that some patients will likely die as a result.
“We are moving towards a new phase of needing to ‘live with’ coronavirus but for a worrying number of people, the virus is leaving a growing legacy of poor mental health that services are not equipped to deal with adequately at present,” said Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents the whole of the healthcare system in England.
“With projections showing that 10 million people in England, including 1.5 million children and teenagers, will need new or additional support for their mental health over the next three to five years it is no wonder that health leaders have dubbed this the second pandemic. A national crisis of this scale deserves targeted and sustained attention from the government in the same way we have seen with the elective care backlog.”
One family doctor in Hertfordshire, Dr David Turner, said he was so concerned about the situation that he had chosen to speak out publicly for the first time in his 25-year career. “I and many other GPs feel the issue has become critical and it is only a matter of time before a child dies,” he told the Guardian.
Turner said access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) was “never great pre-Covid” but was now “appalling”. The double whammy of a spike in demand and underinvestment in CAMHS was putting patients at risk, he added.
Read full story
Source: The Guardian, 21 February 2022