The NHS is not equipped to tackle the hidden “parallel pandemic” in mental health with many patients going without adequate treatment, leaders have warned.
The cost of living crisis and the aftermath of the Covid epidemic have led to an increase in the number of people suffering from mental health problems.
But the true scale of the problems could be even greater, health experts warn, because it’s impossible to know how many people have yet to show up for care.
Saffron Cordery, acting chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, warned that the scale of the problem meant it was imperative to address it quickly, as her organization previously estimated that 8 million people in need are not accessing care. mental health .
It comes as recent figures from the NHS showed that 25 percent of 17-19 year olds they are now estimated to have a mental health problem, up from 17 percent last year.
In an interview with The independent, Cordery noted: “I was talking to a [NHS trust] CEO the other day you were telling me your feeling that what has happened with mental health in recent years, in terms of people suffering from these conditions and disorders, is like a parallel pandemic. I agree with that assessment.”
“We really have to address the significant unmet need for mental health care.”
Mental health problems “flipped under the radar” as the NHS battled the covid pandemic, he suggested, and since then there has been an increase in the number of people requiring help and accessing services.
“And those are just the ones we know about,” Cordery said. “The situation we have to worry about is people who have not shown up for care.”
He also warned that the problem could worsen as the cost-of-living crisis risks exacerbating mental health problems.
The crisis is expected to have two consequences. The first is an increase in the number of people experiencing mental health problems for the first time, while the second is that some of those who already suffer will see their mental health worsen.
Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow mental health minister, said: “Demand for mental health treatment continues to grow, with many patients, including children, languishing for days in emergency departments, waiting for a mental health bed.
“The government simply has no control over the crisis. Without access to timely treatment, mental illnesses only get worse.“
“After 12 years of conservative mismanagement, our public services and economy are on the brink of the abyss.”
the independent revealed last month that patients suffering from mental illness are finding it increasingly difficult to access help at all levels of the NHS.
Some wait up to eight days in A&E departments for a hospital bed, while record numbers face “unacceptable” delays for referrals.
More than 16,000 adults and 20,000 children who should receive NHS care are unable to access vital services every month, the latest figures show.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The NHS does a brilliant job, but we know that our mental health services, like our health service, are stretched to the limit. A prevention-focused approach is needed now more than ever.”
He also warned that research had shown that financial stress and poverty were “key contributors” to mental health problems.
“Without clear preventative action from the government to support individuals and communities, there will be an increase in mental health problems across the UK and increased demand for mental health services,” he said.
“We know from past recessions that key investments in communities and labor market programs protect the mental health of vulnerable people and save lives.”
In particular, he called for more training for frontline public service personnel, such as debt advisers and job center workers.
Such steps would also have a positive economic impact, he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We know that the pandemic affected not only people’s physical health but also their mental health. NHS mental health services remained open and all mental health trusts set up hotlines for people experiencing a crisis.
He added that the government was increasing investment in NHS mental health services by £2.3bn a year by 2024, meaning an additional 2 million people could access NHS-funded mental health support.