Clegg announcement on introduction of maximum waiting times for mental health is a ‘watershed moment’ says charity

Millions of lives could be improved by the introduction of the first ever maximum waiting times for NHS mental health services, according to the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

The announcement has been made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and is part of a five-year plan (1) by Health Minister Norman Lamb and NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens.

The plan commits to introducing maximum waiting times across mental health services by 2020. Unlike other NHS services, there have never been maximum waiting times for mental health.

This will be rolled out in stages, with waiting times introduced sooner for some key services. For example, the aim is that at least 50% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, will not have to wait longer than two weeks for treatment by 2016.  The aim is to increase this percentage in future years.     

‘Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020’ also includes a commitment to spend an extra £40m on some mental health services this year and a further £80m in 2015/16.

Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said:

“This is a watershed moment for everyone affected by mental illness and has the potential to improve the lives of millions. No one should have to wait months or even years for potentially life-changing treatment, just because they have a mental health problem rather than a physical one. Together with our supporters, we have been campaigning for maximum waiting times for many years.

“It’s vital that the NHS, Department of Health and Ministers now work together to ensure their commitment to bring in waiting times across all mental health services, becomes a reality by 2020.

“We are also pleased that this plan includes more funding for crucial early intervention services for people with psychosis. Our Lost Generation report demonstrated how effective these services are, how they save the NHS money in the long term and how important it is to investment in them.

“This is a significant step towards putting mental and physical health on an equal footing. Our supporters have been calling for transformational change which will help more people get support when they need it. Although we still have a long way to go before that becomes a reality, this is an important move in the right direction.”

For more information or to book an interview with a Rethink Mental Illness spokesperson, please contact or call 0207 840 3138

1.    Key points from ‘Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020’

·        For the first time, waiting times will to be introduced for mental health

·        Waiting times will be rolled out in stages. Next year it will apply in some key areas (including early intervention in psychosis) and the aim is for this to apply to all mental health services by 2020.

·        £40m extra funding this year and a further £80m for 2015/16

·        £33m of the funding is to be spent on early intervention services for psychosis and crisis care

·        People with serious mental illness will have a named NHS health professional who will be responsible for their care. They will also support the individuals right to choice.

Rachel Hobbs 
News and Media Manager, Rethink Mental Illness
0207 840 3138
Tweet me! @Rachel_Rethink