Extra funding needed to support digital mental health services, report finds

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Long-term investment to support the increased use of digital approaches in mental health is needed to help the service maintain new ways of working, according to a new report.

The £2.3 billion for mental health funding announced in the NHS Long Term Plan is no longer enough to sustain mental health services amidst an increase in demand and costs caused by the pandemic, NHS Confederation found.

In its new report, Mental health services and Covid-19: preparing for the rising tide, NHS Confederation said there are “serious concerns” the funding falls short on extra costs including those “related to new digital services”.

The “significant” scale of digital transformation within mental health settings during the Covid-9 crisis has benefitted both patients and providers, it notes, providing greater accessibility and protection from the virus.

But warned digital services are not appropriate for all patients, adding that patient experience must play an “integral role” when the sector is looking at which transformations to maintain post-pandemic.

“Digital approaches will continue to form part of care pathways for patients. But feedback from service users tells us that digital solutions are not always appropriate or easily accessible,” it states.

“There are also additional costs for providers relating to implementation and sustaining digital solutions that have not been factored into existing national financial allocations.”

The report also recommended NHS trusts to look at practical ways they can better support and integrate their third sector partners, such as supporting access to NHS charities funding and sharing access to digital platforms.

NHS Confederation welcomed new guidance from NHS England and Improvement asking providers to look at developing digitally enabled care pathways that “increase inclusion” as part of phase three of the NHS Covid recovery plan.

The new guidance instructed NHS leaders to review who is using new 111, primary, outpatient and mental health digitally enabled care pathways in a bid to improve inclusivity.

The mental health services report is part of the NHS Reset series, a campaign from NHS Confederation to shape what the health and social care system should look like post-Covid. Digital Health News will be bringing you further updates on the campaign.

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