MP Norman Lamb blasts health bosses for ‘shamefully’ ignoring mental health targets

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Health bosses have been accused of 'shamefully' ignoring new targets for mental health care, which are aimed at significantly improving the standard of care patients receive.

The government announced last year that from April 1, 2016, services for people with mental health conditions would be required to meet two standards – the main aim being to ensure quicker access to treatment.

However, North Norfolk MP and mental health campaigner Norman Lamb has written to Simon Stephens, chief executive of NHS England, to express concern those targets are not being taken seriously.

The letter comes after Mr Lamb was handed assessment papers which showed how the region's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which hand out cash for services, were not ready to meet the targets.

The CCGs have denied not taking the issue seriously but said negotiations were ongoing.

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The standards, the first to be introduced for mental health care, require that 50pc of patients showing their first signs of psychosis are seen within two weeks and that 75pc of patients with depression or anxiety disorders needing access to psychological therapies are to be treated within six weeks of referral, and 95pc in 18 weeks.

Mr Lamb said the first target was particularly important because early intervention for someone suffering from psychosis was known to be statistically more effective.

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He added: 'These targets should be treated with the same importance that hospitals give to physical health targets. My concern is the money has not been allocated and none of the CCGs is on course to meet these targets, which is scandalous and shameful.

'There is a wealth of evidence that if you intervene early when someone has a psychotic episode you are more likely to stop that developing and from happening again into their adulthood. It can help that person to lead a good life, but if you ignore it that person will likely have a difficult life.

'There is a massive moral case for this, but a physical one as well as it stops people from coming back for more treatment. We can't establish rights for patients and then allow for them to be flagrantly ignored.'

When the measures were announced last year, the government said £80m would be set aside for CCGs to commission the relevant services needed.

However, Michael Scott, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust (NSFT), said: 'NSFT is currently commissioned to provide an Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) service for people aged under 35 years only, in Norfolk and Waveney.

'We are in close discussion with the CCGs about their commissioning a service for people aged over 35 and local readiness to meet the new NICE guidelines by April 2016.

'We are concerned that currently insufficient funds have been allocated to allow us to meet this important target. In the meantime, the trust has been developing plans for how we could roll out an expanded service.'

A spokesman for the five CCGs in Norfolk and Waveney said: 'The CCGs in Norfolk and Waveney are working with NSFT to introduce the new Early Access to Intervention standards for patients with psychosis. National guidance requires them to be introduced in 2016/17.

'Conversations between the CCGs and NSFT about what services should be provided to patients in 2016/17 are still continuing, as part of routine contract negotiations.'

NHS England declined to comment.

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