• Eight trusts in April failed to hit the new early intervention in psychosis standard of treating people within two weeks of being referred
  • In England, two-thirds of patients began treatment within the new government target
  • Out of 1,222 patients waiting to be assessed ahead of treatment, 770 had already been waiting more than two weeks
  • Mental health leaders have called for more money to help achieve the standard

Hundreds of patients are waiting more than two weeks to have vital assessments for psychosis treatment, HSJ analysis has revealed.

National data on early intervention in psychosis has been published for the first time by NHS England. It shows trusts’ performance against a new standard, for at least 50 per cent of patients suffering a first episode of psychosis to receive treatment within two weeks of being referred.

The data has shown that:

  • In April, eight mental health trusts failed to hit the government’s target for no more than half of patients to wait longer than two weeks from referral to treatment.
  • Two-thirds of patients treated in April began treatment within two weeks.
  • But hundreds of patients on the waiting list had already waited over two weeks to be assessed ahead of treatment. More than 200 had waited more than 12 weeks.

In response to the figures mental health leaders have called for more cash to help them hit the target.

HSJ analysis of the data reveals that in April, 65 per cent of 1,204 patients nationally who began NICE approved treatment that month had done so within the two week window.

However 1,222 patients across the country were on the waiting list to be assessed to see if their needed early intervention in psychosis treatment. Of these, 770 patients had already been waiting more than two weeks.

It means should any of those patients be assessed and judged suitable for EIP treatment they automatically fall outside the two week target.

The data also showed that 232 patients yet to be assessed had been waiting more than 12 weeks, while 32 people who started treatment that month had been waiting longer 12 weeks.

Eight out of 56 mental health trusts failed to hit the new target in April, the first month it was in effect.

NHS England stressed that until an assessment had been completed it is unknown how many patients on the waiting list will receive EIP treatment.

A spokeswoman said: “It is only once the pathway is complete that we can be assured that the patient has been allocated to an EIP service and appropriate, NICE approved treatment commenced.

“However, we do recognise that the completed pathway measure does not capture those patients who may still be waiting an unacceptable length of time for treatment.

“Even though this measure doesn’t define achievement against the standard, it will help us work with CCGs to ensure that patients still waiting for treatment are seen as promptly as possible.”

Trusts failing to hit the EIP target, April 2016
Nottinghamshire Healthcare Foundation Trust – 15 breaches out of 15 patients (100%)
Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust – 10 breaches out of 11 patients (90.91%)
Black Country Partnership Foundation Trust – 4 breaches out of 5 patients (80.00%)
Pennine Care Foundation Trust – 34 breaches out of 51 patients (66.67%)
Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust – 12 breaches out of 19 patients (63.16%)
Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust – 8 breaches out of 14 patients (57.14%)
Humber Foundation Trust – 5 breaches out of 9 patients (55.56%)
North Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust – 19 breaches out of 35 patients (54.29%)

Mental health leaders insisted there needed to be more investment in EIP services if they were to successfully hit the new standard.

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust chief executive Michael Scott said his trust was in discussion with its commissioners about the staff and funding needed to meet the two week target.

The trust managed to hit the target in April, but had struggled between December 2015 and March 2016.

Simon Smith, executive director for local services at Nottinghamshire Healthcare FT, which failed to begin treatment for any of its EIP patients in April within the target, said demand in Nottingham outweighed the available funding.

He said: “Our commissioners procured an independent external review [into EIP performance] and this report has just been received by them, with a joint understanding that it will result in extra funding that will allow us to recruit new staff to meet the rising demand.”

However, some trusts told HSJ the high numbers of patients waiting over two weeks came from people not attending assessment appointments or departments using different classifications for complete and incomplete pathways to NHS England.

The new target was announced in the Department of Health and NHS England in October 2014.

Rebecca Cotton, director of mental health policy at the Mental Health Network, said: “Given the wider context of pressures on services, particularly around investment, this is a real achievement. However, as the mental health taskforce highlighted, we need to be going much, much further to make sure more people are getting access to the services they need.”