Proposals released today could ensure shorter waiting times for people with mental health problems visiting A&E.
Under the new NHS pilot scheme, patients experiencing mental health crisis will receive emergency care in less than 60 minutes.
As well as reducing waiting times in A&E, patients experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to access care in their home or community.
A new way to measure waiting times in emergency departments will also be tested, focusing on the amount of time spent in A&E rather than whether the waiting times surpassed target.
The four-hour waiting target introduced in 2004 has been criticised for being a ‘cliff-edge’, encouraging hospitals to focus on the target instead of the best approach for the patient.
Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS in England’s national medical director and leader of the review, said: “As we build an NHS that is fit for the future, now is the right time to look again at the old targets which have such a big influence on how care is delivered.”
The Long Term Plan draws on findings from a Healthwatch England poll conducted in January, in which over three quarters of participants believed it was important to prioritise patients by urgency.
It is estimated people go to their local A&E department with mental health problems up to a million times per year.
According to Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of mental health charity Mind, despite the prevalence, people with mental health problems often find they are not treated as quickly as people with physical health problems.
These proposals will be an opportunity to provide people experiencing mental health problems with the support they need.
“People with mental health problems deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and to have their views properly taken into account.
“More joined up care across the NHS should make it easier for people with mental health problems to get help early on,” Mr Farmer added.
As well as reducing waiting times for people experiencing mental health crisis, the Long Term Plan will trial quicker assessment times for people with cancer, sepsis and other urgent physical health conditions.
This year will be spent transitioning from targets and updating hospital standards and, following a consultation, the new measures will begin to be implemented across the NHS from April 2020.