While ostensibly a physical health issue, COVID-19 has, and will continue to have, huge implications for mental health providers and the individuals they support.
The impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services will be felt long after the physical health crisis subsides. Self-isolation, financial insecurity, bereavement and increases in substance abuse and domestic violence will affect both people with pre-existing mental health conditions, the general public, and the health and care workforce, with certain demographic groups disproportionately affected.
For NHS-funded mental health services to be given a fighting chance to meet the increased needs of both those with an existing mental illness and the general population, several key conditions must be met: improved modelling and extra resourcing to meet additional demand; system-wide working; support for staff wellbeing; locking in effective innovations; and a cross-government approach to supporting the mental health of the nation.
To prepare for the expected surge in demand, we’re calling for:
- Urgent work to better understand expected demand and its impact in different areas and groups.
- Public Health England to lead an enhanced, national, public health approach to suicide prevention, targeted to those most at risk. This strategy must include the continued expansion of employment support.
- Increased financial support and recognition for third sector organisations that support NHS mental health services.
- Funding levels to be reviewed in light of the new normal and adjusted where necessary to meet increased levels of demand.
- The needs of the mental health sector, including additional capital funding and workforce, to be prioritised at system level.
- PCNs and mental health providers to work together to provide more seamless, integrated mental health care for both the general population and those with an existing mental illness.
- NHS trusts to look at practical ways they can better support and integrate their third sector partners, such as supporting access to NHS Charities funding and sharing access to digital platforms.
- A long-term, sustainable settlement for social care, that recognises the specific requirements of working-age adults with mental health needs.
- Learning from the trailblazer mental health support teams to be used to inform the expansion of the teams to cover 100 percent of the student population, an increase on the current commitment to cover 25 percent by 2023.
- Health Education England to lead a dedicated campaign to encourage people into mental health careers.
- Additional, long-term funding to support the increased use of digital approaches.
- The experience and views of service users to be taken on board when looking at what innovations are maintained post pandemic.
Find out more in our report: Mental health services and COVID-19: preparing for the rising tide.
- In our NHS Reset podcast, mental health service user Ken Taylor speaks to Dr Julie Hankin about what this period will mean for the delivery of services in the aftermath of the pandemic.