Mental health services in England are to receive a £120 million boost over the next two years.
A new five-year ambition from has introduced new waiting time standards and early intervention services introduced, as part of a plan to create parity of esteem between physical and mental health services.
From 2015/16 75% of people referred for talking therapies for common mental health problems such as depression or anxiety will start their treatment within six weeks and 95% within 18 weeks, the new standards state.
And half of all people going through their first episode of psychosis will get help approved by the National Institute of Care and Health Excellence (NICE) within two weeks of being referred.
The new standards would mean patients referred for talking therapies would be able to expect the same care as most people who are referred for a treatment of a physical health problem.
People referred for urgent cancer treatment can expect to be seen within two weeks, and NHS England and the Department of Health believe people experiencing psychosis should be treated with the same urgency.
The plan calls for better physical health treatment for people with mental health illness, as well as improved smoking cessation services and support from NHS England for clinical commissioning groups to make sure there is proper investment in local mental health services.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said: “This is an important moment when we will bring parity of esteem for mental health services a step 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 that aim.”
Dr Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing chief executive said: “Mental health nurses provide expert support and help people to manage their conditions, in inpatient units and in the community. However we know that many are struggling, spread too thinly due to short staffing and a lack of resources.
“The Deputy Prime Minister [Nick Clegg's] announcement is a welcome step towards making parity of esteem a reality. However we must not lose sight of the enormous challenge facing health and social care in the coming decade.
“We would hope that whoever wins the next election will look at the huge demands on the health service and invest in keeping people mentally and physically well, intervening promptly and valuing the expertise of NHS staff.”
Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, said: “This programme will start the journey to transform mental health care in England. Today people who present in crisis often wait too long for an assessment and to access treatment. This new approach will help improve crisis care and help reduce the distress that untreated mental illness brings.
"With 75% of long term mental health problems diagnosed before 18, investing in early effective treatments will pay immediate and long term dividends."