Department of Health and Social Care written statement – made on 23rd January 2023.
I am pleased to share an update on the Government’s £150 million of capital investment in NHS mental health urgent and emergency care infrastructure, first announced as part of the 2021 Spending Review. This investment – being delivered through NHS England – will support people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, mental health crisis to receive care and support in more appropriate settings outside of A&E and inpatient facilities, in turn improving experience and alleviating pressures on local urgent care pathways and in the wider system.
£7 million of the investment is specifically being used to centrally procure up to 100 specially designed mental health ambulances over the next two years. These vehicles will be staffed by both physical and mental health professionals, equipped to respond to and assess people on-scene or take people to the most appropriate place for care, reducing the amount of people who are taken to A&E by ambulance services. The vehicles, designed by patients and clinical experts, will provide a much calmer environment than the traditional fully kitted, bright yellow ambulances. They have been designed with simple NHS ambulance service logos and will have a less clinical interior with dimmable lighting, equipment to play music and space for parents, carers or companions to accompany during assessments and transfers.
The remaining £143 million of capital funding is being invested in providing and improving a range of spaces to more appropriately support people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, mental health crisis. This includes the redesign and refurbishment of existing mental health suites and facilities including in emergency departments, the provision of spaces outside of A&E and the expansion of crisis lines. The programme also includes schemes designed to avoid people reaching crisis, such as improvement of sanctuary spaces and community mental health facilities.
This is alongside investment of almost £1 billion extra in community mental health care for adults with severe mental illness by 2023/24. This will give 370,000 adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses, including eating disorders, greater choice and control over their care and support them to live well in their communities.
Today, I am also announcing the commencement of a rapid review into patient safety in mental health inpatient settings in England. This review is an essential first step in improving safety in mental health inpatient settings. It will focus on what data and evidence is currently available to healthcare services, including information provided by patients and families, and how we can use this data and evidence more effectively to identify patient safety risks and failures in care. I am immensely pleased to announce that the review will be chaired by Dr Geraldine Strathdee. Dr Strathdee brings a wealth of experience from working for over 20 years in senior roles in mental health policy, regulation and clinical management, at national and regional levels.
Dr Strathdee will remain the Chair of the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry, which is looking at inpatient mental health deaths in Essex between 2000 and 2020 and which will continue its work during the period of the rapid review. The rapid review will be separate from, but complementary to, the Essex Inquiry, and we are excited that she brings her significant expertise from all her work on mental health so far. Dr Strathdee also has a longstanding passion for using data to improve services.
NHS England has also established a three-year Quality Improvement programme which seeks to tackle the root causes of unsafe, poor-quality inpatient care in mental health, learning disability and autism settings. My officials will continue to work closely with their colleagues in NHS England to make sure the review is aligned with and complementary to the Quality Improvement programme.