Part of the overall expansion of mental health services in the NHS Long Term Plan. Urgent mental health support will be provided to people within 24 hours of referral, with the most urgent case receiving care within four hours.

Emergency mental health support will also be facilitated with mental health liaison services for those who end up in A&E departments.

The standards are “building blocks on which we can build a potentially first-class model of mental health care”

Complimentary to the Government’s £500m mental health recovery plan, the proposed new standards are:

  • Within 24 hours for ‘urgent’ referrals to a community-based mental health crisis service.
  • Within four hours for ‘very urgent’ referral to a community-based mental health crisis service.
  • Within one hour once a patient has been referred from A&E, seen face to face.
  • Within four weeks from referral for children and adults presenting to community-based mental health services.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “Together with the guarantee that mental health investment will increase each year as a share of the growing NHS budget – as has been the case each year since 2015 – 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’.”

Mental health charities also welcomed the new standards of care. Despite cautioning that these standards are conditional “on the right staff being in post”, Mark Winstanley, the chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“These standards act as building blocks on which we can build a potentially first-class model of mental health care and recognise the universal truth that the quicker we can step in to provide high-quality treatment, close to home for someone living with mental illness, the more we improve prospects of recovery.”

And Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, commented: “A huge number of people have developed a mental health problem since the start of the pandemic and some groups have been hit particularly hard, including young people… With increasing numbers of people reaching crisis point, it is critical that they get the right mental health support quickly, which these standards would help to achieve.”

Other long term mental healthcare aims

These new standards come on top of other ambitious aims set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, which will see investment in mental health services rise by £2.3 billion a year in real terms by 2023/24.

Other ambitions include:

  • 75% of adults referred to an IAPT programme should begin treatment within 6 weeks and 95% in 18 weeks of referral.
  • More than 60% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis will start treatment with a specialist in early intervention within two weeks of referral.
  • 95% of children and young people referred for treatment for an eating disorder should receive treatment with a healthcare professional within one week for urgent cases and four weeks for every other case.

The NHS is currently consulting on the new standards affecting mental health providers in collaboration with NHS trusts. Responses to the consultation can be submitted from 21st July to 1st September 2021 by filling out a form on the NHS England website or by emailing


If you need urgent mental health help, please refer to this page. Also, anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can email visit the Samaritans website.