• Mental health trusts asked to bid for share of £335m winter pressure cash
  • Sector to receive up to £18m to ease the pressure on struggling A&Es
  • Successful bids expected to be announced this week

Mental health services are to be handed nearly £20m of the new £335m winter resilience funding to help take the pressure off beleaguered A&Es, HSJ can reveal.

NHS England has written to mental health sector leaders asking them to bid for £18m of the cash promised to ease winter pressures by chancellor Philip Hammond in his autumn budget.

It is thought to be the first time winter pressure cash has been doled out to mental health providers to take the pressure off emergency departments.

National mental health director Claire Murdoch wrote to all mental health leads and mental health trust chief executives on Thursday, 7 December.

In the letter, seen by HSJ, she said that the non-recurrent funding is to be spent specifically on mental health system pressures.

Ms Murdoch said the bids most likely to be successful are those which prioritise investment in:

  • Mental health services which support category three and four A&Es;
  • Services which support A&Es that have challenges around mental health related issues such as high four hour breaches due to mental health needs; and
  • Mental health trusts that have high levels of out of area placements.

HSJ understands the bids were to be submitted by Friday, 8 December, and a decision on the successful bidders is due this week.

Ms Murdoch said in the letter it was vital that all the proposals are made in the context of Five Year Forward View for Mental Health priorities.

She added: “Up to £20m non-recurrent revenue funding has been identified from this year’s winter resilience budget to be spent specifically on mental health related system pressures.

“The absolute focus of this investment must be to secure improvements in A&E performance and to patient care.”

The letter said that bids could include plans for:

  • Expanding acute hospital liaison psychiatry teams;
  • The “operationalisation” of effective crisis resolution home treatment teams;
  • Reducing out of area placements or mental health delayed transfers of care; or
  • Implementing the 2017-19 CQUIN for improving services for people in A&E with mental health needs.

The letter says systems can use the cash to enhance existing 2017-18 plans, employ locum staff, pilot and evaluate schemes prior to long term implementation, or set up new administrative structures.

Ms Murdoch said that the centre wants to encourage systems to focus on the needs of older people with primary and secondary co-morbidity mental health needs, as well as flow into, within and out of acute hospitals.

She added: “We would expect proposals to be broadly in line with existing local strategic plans and have buy in across both the mental health and acute sectors, and support among commissioners, providers and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships.

“This should include explicit support from the relevant local A&E delivery board and lead clinical commissioning groups.”