WAITING time targets are being introduced for mental health services for the first time.
NHS England has announced it is to invest £120million over the next two years as part of a five year plan to introduce waiting times standards and early intervention services.
It means from 2015/16 mental health providers will have to ensure 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies, for for treatment of common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, will start their treatment within six weeks and 95 per cent within 18 weeks.
At least 50 per cent of people going through their first episode of psychosis will also have to receive help within two weeks of being referred.
The aim is also to ensure people needing urgent care for first episode psychosis will be seen within two weeks.
The move is part of efforts to put mental health on a par with physical health where waiting time targets already exist for a range of services including cancer treatment, planned surgery and A&E.
Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group will get a share of the fund to help ensure the waiting time target is hit but it is not yet know how much they will receive.
A spokeswoman for Redditch Mental Health Action Group welcomed the announcement but said the system still needed to be radically changed if mental health was to be put on a par with physical health.
“Waiting times are a huge issue we hear brought up time and time again by residents. Although it is good to see targets introduced in some parts of the system, we still appear to have no target when it comes to those in crisis or experiencing an episode which is not psychosis-based.” she said.
“I hope this week’s announcement is not just another plaster being thrown at the matter but have little faith patients will get the help they need where and when they need it without a radical overhaul of the system.
“It is no good selling us a great new idea and then not ensuring it happens every single time for every single patient. The mental health community is starting to find its voice and we will not stop shouting until we get a fair deal.”