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New analysis shows record 4.3 million referrals to mental health services in 2021

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) have released new analysis of NHS Digital data which has shown that mental health services received 4.3 million referrals during 2021.

The cause of the record high is thought to be the effects of the pandemic which saw over one million people received treatment for conditions like addictions, anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

In December alone, the NHS delivered mental health consultations to over 1.8 million people, but the RCPsych say, “pressure on services continues to ratchet up”.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: the silence from government continues to be of grave concern for the College, the wider mental health workforce and, most importantly, our patients.

“The warning of the long tail of mental ill health caused by the pandemic has not been heeded. Many thousands of people will be left waiting far too long for the treatment they need unless the government wakes-up to the crisis that is engulfing the country.

“Staff are working flat-out to give their patients the support they need but the lack of resources and lack of staff mean it’s becoming an impossible situation to manage.

“We don’t need warm words or empty commitments. We need a fully funded plan for mental health services, backed by a long-term workforce plan, as the country comes to terms with the biggest hit to its mental health in generations.”

There are currently 1.4 million people awaiting treatment for mental health issues, something which the RCPsych say will only get worse it the government do not publish a mental health recovery plan to outline a roadmap to reducing waiting times.

The college would like to see this plan include an expansion to services, the training of more psychiatrists and the replacement or rejuvenation of rundown mental health facilities across the country.

In December 2021 there was a 15.7 percent increase in children and young people accessing mental health services than two years prior and a 14.7 percent increase across the same time frame for adults.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists also expresses its concern for a lack of beds in certain regions saying, “hundreds of adults are being sent far from home for treatment”.

The NHS have outlined plans to grow and improve mental health services in the NHS Long Term Plan and have ringfenced funding worth at least £2.3 billion a year set to be in place by 2023/24.

NHE March/April 2024

NHE March/April 2024

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