A survey of experts working in Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) services carried out at the start of the year by Rethink Mental Illness found that 50 per cent reported cuts to their budget, some by as much as 20 per cent. A further 58 per cent of respondents reported losing staff over the past year.
More than half of professionals said the cuts had resulted in a decrease in the quality of the EIP service, with many also reporting long delays for accessing treatment.
EIP services were set up a decade ago to help young people aged from 14 up to 35 recover from a first episode of psychosis. They offer support from psychiatrists, psychologists, community mental health nurses, social workers and support workers.
The findings are outlined in Rethink’s Lost Generation report, which warns that the cuts will mean more young people won’t be able to access services reducing their chances of recovery and increasing their need for more acute mental health services into adulthood.
Jane Hughes, Rethink director of campaigns, said the cuts are counterproductive.
“Early intervention is absolutely critical in helping young people recover from psychosis, which affects around 220,000 people in England. This care saves lives – it reduces the risk of a young person with psychosis taking their own life, from as much as 15 per cent to just one per cent.
“It also offers the NHS huge savings, by helping young people avoid reaching crisis-point and being hospitalised. If early intervention care was available to everyone who needs it, the NHS would save £44m each year care through reduced use of hospital beds.”
Max Birchwood, professor of youth mental health at the University of Warwick, said: “EIP services are at a tipping point, and further cuts will seriously threaten their capacity to support some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.
“The government, the NHS and commissioners must make EIP services a priority at a national and local level. We are calling on them to act now, or risk writing off the future of tens of thousands of young people across the country.”
Rethink is calling on the government to introduce a maximum wait of 28 days for accessing EIP services – currently, there is no target; for clinical commissioning groups to ensure specialist employment and physical health support is available; and for NHS England to make EIP services a priority for commissioners.
The report collates evidence from 96 EIP experts who are members of the IRIS Network, which is a forum for regional leaders in EIP services. The responses account for around 80 per cent of all EIP services.
The findings come just a day after the publication of latest figures that showed a rise in the number of under-18s being treated in adult mental health wards.