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Number of people using mental health services jumps 11%


By Jess Hacker
15 November 2021

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The number of people in contact with NHS mental health services has jumped by 11% this year, new data has shown.

According to NHS figures, 1.46 million people used mental health services in August of this year, compared to 1.32 million in the same month the year before, marking an increase of nearly 150,000 people.

It comes as estimates indicate there could be an additional 300,000–730,000 referrals annually for these services between now and 2024, placing ‘significant additional pressure on general practice’.

The latest quarterly data also revealed that only 63% of urgent cases of young people referred to eating disorder services were seen within one week, falling short of the NHS’s own 95% target.

Similarly, only 65% of routine eating disorder cases for young people were referred within four weeks.

Analysis published in August revealed the number of under-19s waiting for urgent treatment for eating disorders tripled during the pandemic.

Commenting on the newest figures, Leila Reyburn, policy and campaigns manager at the mental health charity Mind, said the picture ‘remains bleak’ for people in England with poor mental health.

‘Now more than a third (37 per cent) of young people with eating disorders who need urgent treatment, are not being seen within the NHS’s one week target. This is completely unacceptable. There has also been a decrease in the number of other young people with eating disorders being seen within the NHS four-week target,’ she said.

Ms Reyburn added that ‘urgent clarity’ is needed on how much of the funding allocated to the NHS during the spending review (27 October) would be put towards mental health services.

Last month, the Treasury had confirmed £5.9bn investment into digital tech and to tackle England’s growing backlog for care, which currently sits at 5.7 million people.

However, chancellor Rishi Sunak faced criticism for not taking it as an opportunity to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health.

Prior to the spending review, NHS Providers cautioned that ‘hard won progress on mental health treatment and services is in jeopardy’ if the NHS does not get the critical investment it needs.

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