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Mental health referrals decline by estimated 30-40% during pandemic

Mental health referrals have seen a sharp decline during the pandemic, NHS England has warned.

Speaking in front of MPs on the House of Commons health and social care committee last month, national mental health director Claire Murdoch said a ‘ballpark’ estimate would be that referrals had dropped by 30-40%.

She urged people to continue to seek help for their mental health where required, including via primary care.

She said: ‘We are concerned about the drop-off in new referrals. We’d urge everybody to come through those emergency routes, or primary care, if they don’t know where else to go, and we’re giving the new referrals a big focus currently.

‘We think, and it is ballpark because we’re not seeing the data yet – we’re living in the midst of this crisis, as you know – we think it will be somewhere between 30 and 40%.’

She added that the impact from the pandemic on mental health referrals had been different in different parts of the country, potentially linked to virus spread.

She said: ‘There are some areas of the country that are saying they haven’t seen a drop-off at all, there are other areas that are saying there’s been a greater drop-off, but we’re trying to understand whether there’s been a correlation between the drop-off in referrals and the intensity of the virus as it’s moved to different parts of the country.’

It comes as GP leaders and psychologists have said they fear an ‘imminent’ surge in mental health issues relating to Covid-19.

The pandemic has also impacted those working in the NHS, with around 600 GP practice staff having accessed coaching sessions provided by NHS England.



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David Church 27 December, 2020 11:36 am

Is this because GPs realised that all existing patients had been discharged, as the staff had all been sent home to avoid infection risk, but not given telephone access to patients?
Hence GPs did not see the point in referring new patients to a service that would not be seeing any patients (“mental health cannot be assessed on the telephone, only face-to-face”) for an expected pandemic period of 2 to 5 years.

David Church 27 December, 2020 11:37 am

Or was it because GPs already have more than enough patients addicted to Seroquel and did not want more to have to deal with?