Mental health referrals more than halve in the Herts Valleys area during lockdown

Mental health charities are concerned people may not be seeking help

Monday, 20th July 2020, 8:51 am
Updated Monday, 20th July 2020, 8:54 am

The number of people with depression or anxiety referred for therapy more than halved during lockdown in the Herts Valleys area, new figures reveal.

Mental health charities say they are concerned people may not be seeking help, despite suffering increased stress and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last April, NHS statistics show that 1,390 people were referred to psychological therapies for depression and anxiety in the NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group area - which covers Dacorum, St Albans, Harpenden, Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere.

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But the latest figures show that this April, the number had fallen to just 470 – a drop of 66 per cent.

There was also a drop in the number of patients who began therapy during the month – 815 compared to 1,145, a fall of 29 per cent.

Across England, referrals were down by 57 per cent, falling from 133,191 to 57,814.

The number of patients starting treatment fell from 95,070 to 62,375, a decrease of 34 per cent.

Danielle Hamm, associate director for campaigns and policy at charity Rethink Mental Illness said the figures reflected the 'significant disruption' to mental health services during the initial pandemic response.

Research carried out by the charity in April found 79 per cent of people with pre-existing mental illnesses said their mental health had deteriorated because of the pandemic, while 42 per cent said this was the case because they were getting less support.

Ms Hamm said: "We’re very concerned to see the number of referrals dropping so rapidly at a time when a significant number of people reported a deterioration in their mental health, combined with an increase in waiting times for those who have sought help."

The NHS's official measure of waiting times shows little change during April, as it only looks at the waits those who finished their treatment during the month faced when they were first referred.

Dr David Crepaz-Keay, from the Mental Health Foundation charity, said the figures were "troubling", but that the health service is only one source of support for mental health.

He said: "There are many other ways the Government can support the mental health of the millions who have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.

"This includes action to increase people's financial and physical security, so they don't have to fear running out of food or fuel or being evicted, as well as wider changes such as more health visitors to support new parents, and mental health support for people who work in the NHS."

An NHS spokesman said the pandemic had turned lives upside down, but that therapy has always been available for those who need it.

He added: “Local services continue to adapt to maximise the mental health support available, including online and telephone support, and anybody who thinks they would benefit from psychological treatment can refer themselves directly.

"The NHS is here for you, please help us help you.”