Mental health care is to get the “biggest transformation in a generation” – with NHS England to spend an extra £1bn a year on treatments by 2021.
An independent taskforce has identified wide-ranging targets for improvement over the next five years, as only 15% of those who need psychological therapy in England currently get the care they need.
Under the plans – expected to benefit an extra one million people each year – it is hoped there will be seven-day access to help in a crisis, a greater prevention of illness, and integrated care to ensure every patient’s mental health and physical needs are met.
Paul Farmer, chair of the taskforce and chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: “We know that if you can support someone in the early weeks of the mental health crisis you can significantly improve the outcome when you are talking about getting a job or being able to live at home … it can be the difference between lives saved and lives ruined.”
His taskforce has detailed 58 recommendations for improving care, including providing psychological therapy for an extra 600,000 people, an end to patients being treated miles from home, and high-quality care for 70,000 more children and young people.
Support will also be given to 30,000 new mothers struggling with depression.
There is also an aim to reduce suicide by 10% – as rates have been rising in recent years, peaking in 2014 at 4,882 deaths.
In addition, 280,000 people will be given physical health screening because someone with severe mental illness is at risk of dying 15 to 20 years earlier than the rest of the population on average.
The funding will also help initiatives such as cafes staffed by support workers, counsellors and psychiatric nurses – giving patients somewhere to go late at night and during weekends.
One such scheme in Surrey saw admissions to inpatient beds fall by a third in its first seven months, with those who needed help being diverted from A&E.
Prime Minister David Cameron said many living with mental illness “have had to suffer in silence”.
“The taskforce has set out how we can work towards putting mental and physical healthcare on an equal footing and I am committed to making sure that happens,” said the PM.
Mental health illness is believed to cost the economy, the NHS and society £105bn a year.
Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health, Luciana Berger, said it was “very welcome that NHS England has listened to the independent taskforce”.
She added: “This is an important moment for mental health. It is highly regrettable that this very significant report has been published during recess, preventing Parliament from giving it the attention and scrutiny it deserves.
“If implemented in full, these changes could make a huge difference to a system which has had to contend with funding cuts at a time of rising demand, leaving too many vulnerable people without the care they need.”