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Labour pledges one-month mental health waiting time target

mental health


Labour has pledged that all patients will begin mental health treatment within one month, should the party come into power at the next general election.

Current NHS targets are for 75% of people referred to the Improving Access to Psychology Therapies (IAPT) programme to being treatment within six weeks, and 95% of people referred to start treatment within 18 weeks.

But, in his keynote speech to party’s annual conference today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his Government would ensure patients begin appropriate treatment within four weeks of referral, as well as having an initial assessment of needs beforehand.

To achieve this, Labour pledged it would recruit 8,500 new mental health staff by the end of its first term in Government, meaning one million additional people should be able to access treatment every year.

Sir Keir also vowed to:

  • Provide specialist mental health support in every school, with a full-time mental health professional in every secondary school and a part-time professional in every primary school;
  • Boost service quality with the first long-term whole-Government plan to improve mental health outcomes and a wider variety of services for those with severe mental health issues;
  • Ring-fenced funding, promising NHS mental health spending will never decrease and that money will be allocated to mental health every time funding is given to the NHS.

In his speech, Sir Keith said the pledge comes as ‘one of the urgent needs of our time is mental health’, with Labour to ‘guarantee that support will be available in less than a month’.

The Labour Party intends to fund the new measures by ‘closing tax loopholes for private equity fund managers and removing the VAT exemption from private schools’, it added.

The current NHS maximum waiting time for non-urgent, consultant-led mental health treatments is 18 weeks from the day the patient’s appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral service, or when the hospital or service receives a patient’s referral letter.

One in four adults had to wait for a minimum of three months for their treatment to begin after initial assessment, according to a poll commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in October 2020.

More recently, the College also warned that double the number of children and young people are being referred to mental health services than before the pandemic.

NHS England is currently consulting on proposals for a new four-week maximum waiting time target for children and young people.

Click to complete relevant mental health CPD modules on  Nursing in Practice Learning.