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£500 million to tackle long wait times for mental health treatment and winter fears

The UK Government announced on Monday 23rd November that it would be giving the NHS roughly an additional £500 million to address the long waiting times for mental health services. The government estimates that the current cost of ill mental health is up to £35 billion a year. 

Current mental health waiting times are not supposed to exceed 18 weeks, as covered by the NHS 18-week maximum waiting time for all “non-urgent, consultant-led” treatments. 

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A Kings Fund report in 2018 found that eight out of ten NHS trust finance directors say that funding pressures are to blame for an increase, and many trusts across the country are currently spending more than they are taking in.

The Care Quality Commission carried out a survey of 17,600 patients who had care in the past 12 months. It found that 44% of people who received NHS therapy felt that they waited too long for treatment to start, with 24% felt that the services were not regular enough.

The government updated their guidance in November for those suffering with their mental wellbeing this winter amid the pandemic. The guidance suggests that patients should continue their appointments and medication, but ask their counsellors or support workers to move their appointments where possible to online, over the phone or text message.

The guidance also links to the NHS’ Every Mind Matters, a page aiming to give advice on mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, as well as directions to NHS services. 

Despite waiting times continuing to be long, and increasing burden on the service as a whole, there has been a dip in the number of requests for appointments and referrals. Therefore, the NHS has launched the “Help Us Help you” campaign in order to combat this, which seeks to encourage people with issues such as depression and anxiety to seek treatment.

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