National Policy

The rationale for improving access to mental health services and new access standards are described in Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020 and Guidance to Support the Introduction of Mental Health Access and Waiting Time Standards 2015/16.

Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health provides plans and funding arrangements for improving access for children’s mental health services, psychological therapy, psychosis, perinatal mental health, crisis care and acute hospital liaison. More than 50% of patients needing early intervention in psychosis will receive NICE recommended care within two weeks of referral. 95% of patients referred to psychological therapy services will be treated within 18 weeks of referral, and 75% within six weeks. The NHS Operational Planning and Contracting Guidance 2017-19 provides a detailed summary for commissioners.

NHS England offers policy guidance for Early Intervention in Psychosis waiting time standard and associated resource pack. See also Mental Health access and waiting time standards.

 The National Audit Office report Mental Health Services Preparations for Improving Access discusses the challenges involved in improving access and is a useful resource for planning improvement projects.