Huge surge expected on need for mental health services in Essex due to coronavirus

The demand for people needing access to psychological therapies in order to treat anxiety disorders and depression may increase by as much as 60 per cent due to the pandemic.

Forecasting from Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust suggests that the impact of Covid-19 on mental health is now presenting itself and could  last three to five years.

Lizzie Wells, associate director inpatient service at EPUT, which provides mental health services across Essex, said: “We anticipate the demand for IAPT (improving access to psychological therapy) could be 20 per cent higher.

“However, the combination of Covid-19 concerns and the socio-economic impact has meant that some forecasts have demand rising by as much as 60 per cent. The use of digital technology will be essential in order to try and meet this demand, as even with the recruitment of additional trainees the workforce won’t be sufficient to deliver services in the same manner as before Covid-19.”

On top of patients already known to the services, EPUT is now seeing a cohort of patients who are new to services or have not been in contact with services for a long time presenting with complex mental health needs.

Altogether EPUT says it is difficult to forecast what the mental health impact of Covid-19 will be, however it is recognised that a surge in demand is following the physical care surge.

Ms Wells added: “As part of the system and national planning, which is currently taking place, we have assumed an increase of 10 per cent on pre Covid-19 levels, however some forecasting has the surge much higher. In addition, we are seeing a cohort of patients who are new to services or have not been in contact with services for a long time presenting with complex mental health needs.”

During the peak of the Covid-19 crisis the demand for some mental health services’ inpatient beds decreased because patients were concerned about the risk of Covid-19 and therefore did not engage with the health service.

For some patients this has meant a deterioration in their mental health, which again pushes up the demand.

Ms Wells added that the importance of social distancing is a challenge within mental health inpatient services, as some patients refuse to adhere to the guidance.

Sue Waterhouse, director of mental health at EPUT, added that the system is also now gearing up for a surge in people who need help after losing jobs or falling into financial difficulty – but this had to be coordinated with other parts of the system.

She said: “We are reaching out into primary care and developing fairly robust processes and integrated care services that wrap around primary care.

“But the response to the surge we are very well aware of.

“There are people with first episode psychosis, you get people presenting with PTSD as a result of the pandemic but then you get a lot of socio economic issues around people losing their jobs and the impact it has on their lives.

“We are very well aware of that and a lot of the transformation services we are looking to introduce are about picking that up.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter