Report published 21 September 2016. Government response published 19 December 2016.
The Department of Health and NHS England are starting to make progress with the actions needed to implement access and waiting time standards for people with mental health conditions, but much remains to be done, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The Department and NHS England have made a clear commitment to improve mental health services for people who need them. In 2011, the government set an ambition that mental health would be valued as much as physical health. In October 2014, the Department and NHS England set a first set of standards for the access to mental health services that people should expect and how long they should have to wait for treatment.
Full cost implications not well understood
Improving care for people with mental health problems depends on action by many local organisations working together. However, the full cost of implementing the new access and waiting time standards and meeting longer term ambitions for better services is not well understood.
The Department estimated that achieving the commitments made in the first three areas—improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT), early intervention in psychosis and liaison psychiatry services—could be £160 million a year more than the estimated £663 million that clinical commissioning groups spent on these services in 2014–15. Subsequent indicative analysis suggests that the cost of improving access further could be substantially higher, although there is considerable uncertainty around these estimates.
The Department and NHS England have made available £120 million of additional funding over the two years 2014–15 and 2015–16. However, most of the cost of implementing the new access and waiting time standards will be met from clinical commissioning groups' existing budgets, at a time when the NHS is under increasing financial pressure.