The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RcPsych) have again commented on the indisputable negative impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health, and what might be done to address it.
A mixture of ‘Years of underinvestment in mental health’ services and an approximation of 1.8 million new presentations, recurrences or exacerbations of mental ill health, being caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic has led to the current mental health crisis we are seeing, RcPsych said.
1.5 million people are currently waiting for care and treatment for mental illnesses such as eating disorders, addictions, severe anxiety and depression
These comments from RcPsych come after Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer this week announced the autumn spending review, which made little to no mention of mental health services.
“Mental health shouldn’t be at the bottom of the list of Government priorities in this spending review.”
The budget did specify that an increase of £44bn would be given to the NHS, however clarity on how this will impact mental health services and the improvements so desperately needed for them, was not present.
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Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness has said, “This budget and spending review will do little to address the issues fuelling our mental health crisis…the Chancellor provided no reassurance that the government has prioritised mental health or recognised the scale of the growing challenge given the increase in mental ill-health during the pandemic.”
RcPsych said ‘significant investment is needed’ from the spending review to respond to this crisis
A combination of the delayed impact of the pandemic and much of its societal fall-out and increasing population levels between now and 2029, could mean the demand on mental health service will be unable to return to pre-pandemic levels.
As a result, RcPsych is calling for £4.9bn in recovery funding for mental health services to tackle ‘the largest mental health backlog in the history of the NHS’. RcPsych break this down into ‘£3bn capital investment’ and ‘£1bn for day-to-day running of mental health estate over the next three years’, this is to ensure that existing hospitals are safe.
Dr Adrian James, President of RcPsych has said:
“Tokenistic mentions of mental health make no difference to the lives of the millions of people, who are stripped of their dignity while having to wait for treatment. What they need, instead, is significant investment to build better mental health in the aftermath of the pandemic. Capital investment in the mental health estate, new facilities and workforce funding can make it possible for more people to gain faster access to treatment. Investment will not only help reduce waiting times but will also improve quality of care for mental health patients.”