LibDem conference: Clegg sets mental health waiting time targets

8 Oct 14
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced the creation the first-ever waiting time targets for mental health services. The plans are part of a proposed £500m investment to ensure treatment for mental health is available across England in the same way as for physical health.


By Richard Johnstone in Glasgow | 8 October 2014

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced the creation the first-ever waiting time targets for mental health services. The plans are part of a proposed £500m investment to ensure treatment for mental health is available across England in the same way as for physical health.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced the creation the first-ever waiting time targets for mental health services. The plans are part of a proposed £500m investment to ensure treatment for mental health is available across England in the sam

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference today, Clegg announced that people requiring talking therapies to treat conditions like depression would be guaranteed treatment within 18 weeks, from next April. This puts the treatment on the same level as physical conditions such as hip replacements.

Also, for patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis, treatment will be available within two weeks of referral, bringing it into line with consultations on cancer.

Around £120m has been made available from existing NHS budgets, while Clegg said that half of the £1bn increase in NHS funding proposed by the LibDems from 2016/17 if they remain part of government would go towards including more treatments within the waiting time target.

Conditions like anxiety, panic attacks, depression and bi-polar disorder were one of the last remaining taboos in our society, he said.

‘Much progress has been made – people now speak out in a way they never did before, we have put mental health on the same legal footing in the NHS as physical health, we’re massively expanding talking therapies and transforming the help children can get as they move into adulthood – but there’s still a long, long way to go.

‘I want this to be a country where a young dad chatting at the school gates will feel as comfortable discussing anxiety, stress, depression as the mum who’s explaining how she broke her ankle.’

Clegg said that introducing waiting time targets for mental health was needed to tackle the current regional variations in provision, and would form part of the ‘big, big changes’ needed to end the discrimination against mental health.

‘In government again, the Liberal Democrats will commit to completing this overhaul of our mental health services,’ he added. ‘And while I know not everyone in the party is going to agree, I can tell you now – I want this smack bang on the front page of our next manifesto. One of a small number of top priorities.’

LibDem care and support minister Norman Lamb welcomed the announcement.

‘I urge the whole system to engage with these ambitious plans to drive up standards so that, by 2020, mental and physical health services will be given equal priority in all parts of the country,’ he said.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that the proposals would bring parity of mental health services with physical health services closer.

‘Putting access and waiting standards in place across all mental health services, and delivering better integration of physical and mental health care by 2020, will bring us much closer towards this aim.’

Rebecca Cotton, the director of mental health policy at the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said the announcement was a welcome step in the right direction.

'We look forward to working with the Department of Health and NHS England over the coming months to explore how further investment can be made in mental health services,' she added.

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