The Government is to invest £150m to support people experiencing mental health crises, so that they can receive care and support in appropriate settings outside of A&E.
The money, which was first announced in 2021, will fund up to 100 new mental health ambulances, which will take specialist staff directly to patients to deliver support on scene, or transfer them to the most appropriate place for care.
It will also fund 150 new projects centred on supporting the provision of mental health crisis response and urgent mental health care.
The new projects include over 30 schemes providing crisis cafes, crisis houses and other similar safe spaces, as well as over 20 new or improved health-based places of safety which provide a safe space for people detained by the police.
Improvements to NHS 111 and crisis phone lines will also be rolled out.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: ‘People in mental health crisis deserve compassionate care in a safe and appropriate setting. Too often, they end up in A&E when they should be receiving specialist treatment elsewhere.
‘This important funding will make sure they get the help they need, while easing pressures on emergency departments and freeing up staff time – which is a huge priority for the government this winter.’
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘With the health systems facing huge challenges this winter from the rise in flu, ongoing Covid-19 cases and the impact of the pandemic, we need to ensure people are still receiving the right specialist care.
‘These dedicated facilities will ensure patients experiencing a mental health crisis receive the care they need in an appropriate way, while freeing up staff availability including within A&E departments.’
But Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health, pointed out that the money had already been allocated in 2021.
She said: ‘This rehash of an old announcement shows that the Government is out of fresh ideas for mental health services.
‘With demand for mental health treatment on the rise, it’s time for a government that puts patients first.
‘The next Labour Government will have a preventative approach to mental health, guaranteeing treatment within a month by recruiting an additional 8,500 mental health professionals, and putting a mental health hub in every community paid for by scrapping the carried interest loophole and levying VAT on private school fees.’
The interim chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said: ‘This funding, which was announced in the 2021 spending review, will play a part in helping trust leaders support people with mental health conditions, when they need it, and in the most appropriate setting.
‘But what mental health services really need to see is wider support and investment that addresses crucial structural challenges and recognises the drivers behind growing demand for mental health services. This includes greater investment in and reform of social care.
‘In particular, more capital investment is desperately needed to provide a more therapeutic, safe and appropriate environment for people with acute mental health needs alongside urgent action to support overstretched NHS services face, which face severe workforce shortages.’
As mental health services struggle to cope with rising demand, heightened by the pandemic backlog, GPs have had to work beyond their competence, a Pulse investigation revealed last year.