Essex mental health services anticipate demand rising linked to Covid-19

Mental health crisis line. Picture: Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust

Mental health crisis line. Picture: Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Essex Partnership University NHS

The demand for people needing access to psychological therapies in order to treat anxiety disorders and depression may increase by as much as 60 percent 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 percent 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 percent. 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.”

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.

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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.

During the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, demand for some mental health services’ inpatient beds decreased because patients were concerned about the risk of Covid-19.

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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.

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