Mental health care waiting times proposed

People could be seen within guaranteed timeframes under plans out for consultation.
Photo of young woman by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

People seeking help for mental health problems could be seen quicker after NHS England set out proposals for new maximum waiting times.

The public is now being urged to comment on the plans by 1 September 2021.

‘These new waiting times standards are another key milestone in the journey to putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health, so-called ‘parity of esteem’,” said NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens.

The proposed new waiting times

  • 4 weeks: maximum wait for people to start getting help for ‘non-urgent’ needs after contacting a community mental health service
  • 24 hours: maximum wait for people with ‘urgent’ needs referred to a community mental health crisis service
  • 4 hours: maximum wait for ‘very urgent’ needs in people referred to a community mental health crisis service
  • 1 hour: maximum wait for a person to get a face-to-face assessment after being referred by A&E staff

The waiting times apply to children, young people and adults but the type of help and place of care may vary across age groups.

The new times would be on top of existing waiting times for talking therapies (which should start within six weeks of referral), psychosis and eating disorder services.

Healthwatch England’s national director Imelda Redmon said the proposed standards would shine a light on how well mental health services perform, in the same way that waiting times for A&E and planned operations showed how well hospitals were doing now.

“Ultimately, the true test is whether or not these standards improve experiences for patients,” she added.

How to comment on the plans

Submit your feedback to NHS England by 1 September by:

Completing an online consultation form

Or by email to: England.reviewofstandards@nhs.net

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