The pandemic’s impact on mental health ‘will be with us for years’

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A record 1.5 million people received NHS mental health support in June while 1.6 million were waiting for treatment, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said

It has called for an extra £3billion cash over three years to improve buildings and invest in technology and research.

Dr Adrian James, president of RCPsych, said: “We mustn’t overlook mental health when tackling the NHS backlog.

“The pandemic has been catastrophic for mental health and its devastating impact will be with us for years, but we shouldn’t let it wipe out years of progress.”

The number of people in contact with mental health services in June was 12.4 percent higher compared to the same time last year.

And there were 392,700 new referrals, up by almost a quarter from 317,000 in June 2020.

An estimated 1.6 million people were waiting for treatment but the College said the true number requiring support was likely to be higher. It added that while the impact of Covid-19 on surgery, tests and scans was well known, less attention had been paid to mental health.

RCPsych spoke out before the imminent Spending Review to urge the Government to invest an extra £3billion over three years, on top of existing commitments.

Dr James said: “We need the right resources and decisive action on the longterm challenges to help stretched services that are struggling to meet demand.

“This means building new mental health hospitals, transforming our outdated infrastructure and training more specialist doctors to provide high-quality care.

“But this is about more than just the NHS, public health and the prevention of illness must be a top priority as well.”

Cash is also needed to bolster the workforce – including the creation of more places at medical school and in psychiatry training, the College said.

Dr James will be joining a panel of experts tomorrow to give evidence to MPs sitting on the Commons Health and Social Care Committee.

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