NHS Providers responds to NAO report on mental health services

09 February 2023

In response to a National Audit Office (NAO) warning that millions of people with mental health needs are unable to access services, NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said:

"Overstretched mental health services are under huge pressure, doing all they can to provide the best possible care in the face of ever-growing demand.

"The progress that has been made is testament to the hard work of the sector and highlights what can be achieved when services are prioritised and better resourced.

"We need long-term, sustainable investment and support for services, and the mental health workforce that is essential to delivering high quality care, in order to continue to improve access to mental health care.

"Levels of support and investment also need to match growing demand. Services are seeing many people, often with more complex needs, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the cost of living crisis is having an increasing impact. More than 70% of NHS trusts said last autumn that they had seen more people coming to them due to stress, debt and poverty.

"We know too that once they access services many people need more treatment and are staying longer as in-patients, with more being sent outside their local areas for care.

"With an estimated 1.5 million people on the mental health waiting list and more people being referred to and in contact with mental health services than before the pandemic – and appointments postponed because of ongoing strikes – pressure will continue to mount in the coming months.

"More capital funding is desperately needed to provide more therapeutic, safe and appropriate environments for people with acute mental health needs.

"We also need more support for public health and social care services given the crucial role they play in supporting people and helping to prevent mental ill health and deterioration."