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Right treatment, right time

For the first time, this report sets out a clear picture of the significant gap in access to health services for people severely affected by mental illness.

A survey conducted by Rethink Mental Illness of over 1,600 people on their experiences of care and treatment shows that people severely affected by mental illness are often waiting the longest for treatment and then receiving inadequate care.

Behind each of these numbers is a real person whose life and family is being devastated. Due to a lack of quality services, more people are likely to reach crisis point and lives are unacceptably being put at risk.

With the right care, people who are severely affected by mental illness can live long and fulfilling lives. We need to see the government and NHS England, alongside local health and social care decision makers, prioritise funding for timely and high-quality mental health support. Support which is close to home and put in place as soon as a person first asks for help.

On average people are waiting 14 weeks for an assessment alone, with one in 10 (9.4%) waiting six months. One in twenty (4%) said they had waited a year or more. These are individuals living with complex and severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and eating disorders facing extreme distress which, in-turn, is likely to exacerbate their mental illness.

More than half of people surveyed (56%) believed they are not receiving treatment in adequate time, with one in six people (16%) waiting six months or more to receive treatment. On average people are waiting 19 weeks.

One in three people (30%) asked for a service that they were told was unavailable. Nearly 200 people named these services, many of which are core, evidence-based services, including access to a psychologist, family therapy or dialectical behavioural therapy.

Over a quarter (28%) of people felt they were not referred by their GP to an appropriate service to support their mental health.

Where people were able to access a secondary care practitioner, for example a psychiatrist, care coordinator, psychiatric nurse or occupational therapist, just over half (51%) felt that they received this support for a sufficient and appropriate time.

Over 450 people told us about their experience of waiting for extremely long periods to receive support and the poor quality of services they endured. At least 20 people talked about having attempted or thought about suicide due to lack of services.