Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg will today announce £120m investment in mental health services and the introduction of waiting time targets for the sector.

The Liberal Democrat leader will announce a five year strategy, which will include the introduction of two waiting standards from April next year, at the Liberal Democrat Party conference in Glasgow. The two standards are:

  • 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies for common mental health problems will start their treatment within six weeks and 95 per cent within 18 weeks; and
  • at least 50 per cent of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis will receive approved treatment within two weeks.

Mr Clegg will say £40m will be spent on mental health in this financial year. This includes £7m for 50 new child and adolescent mental health inpatient beds and £33m for improving early intervention services for psychosis.

A further £80m will be invested in 2015-16 to fund the introduction of the new targets with an additional £30m investment in liaison psychiatry services in hospitals. The Department of Health said the investments could result in money saved elsewhere.

Mr Clegg has also revealed to HSJ that, if the Liberal Democrats formed a government, they would want an extra £500m in real terms to be invested in mental health services from 2016-17.

The five year plan for mental health access will also commit to ensuring every patient with a serious mental health problem has a named responsible clinician, and to the extension of personal budgets to mental health service users.

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg hopes mental and physical health services will be given equal priority by 2020

The deputy prime minister is expected to say: “It’s wrong that relatives and friends needing a hip operation can expect treatment within a clear timeframe, but someone with a debilitating mental health condition has no clarity about when they will get help.

“We are finally ending the injustice of people with mental health conditions waiting far too long for treatment with the first ever waiting time standards for NHS mental health services.”

Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb, who has identified an absence of waiting time targets as a reason why the sector struggles to win funding, added: “I am absolutely determined to make sure anyone with a mental health condition can expect the same standards of care as they would for a physical health problem.

“I urge the whole health and care system to engage with these ambitious plans to drive up standards so that, by 2020, mental and physical health services will be given equal priority in all parts of the country.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “Over recent years we have heard fine words from the DH and NHS England about finally treating mental health with the same importance we give physical health but, in the face of cuts to services, the reality has been that the gap has widened and services have failed thousands.

“It’s good to see some additional funding committed in this plan.”