24 hour community care will be made available to people facing mental health crises, seven days a week, as part of the biggest transformation of NHS mental heath services in England for a generation.
An independent taskforce has identified wide-ranging targets for improvement over the next five years, which is expected to benefit an extra one million people each year.
The report said too many people were getting no help or inadequate care. Only 15% of those who need psychological therapy in England currently get the care they need. It set out a number of recommendations, including improving access to talking therapies and crisis care.
It is hoped there will be seven-day access to help in a crisis, a greater prevention of illness, and integrated care to ensure every patient’s mental health and physical needs are met.
Paul Farmer, chair of the taskforce and chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: “We know that if you can support someone in the early weeks of the mental health crisis you can significantly improve the outcome when you are talking about getting a job or being able to live at home … it can be the difference between lives saved and lives ruined.”
Another particular focus is placed on tackling inequalities and groups who are at greater risk, such as black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and LGBT people.
The funding will also help initiatives such as cafes staffed by support workers, counsellors and psychiatric nurses – giving patients somewhere to go late at night and during weekends.
One such scheme in Surrey saw admissions to inpatient beds fall by a third in its first seven months, with those who needed help being diverted from A&E.
The taskforce’s recommendations were announced after a leaked draft of their findings was reported on Sunday, painting a “devastating” picture of NHS mental health services in England, with soaring numbers of suicides and three-quarters of people with psychiatric conditions not being helped.
Prime Minister David Cameron said many living with mental illness “have had to suffer in silence.
“For too long there hasn’t been enough focus on mental health care in this country,” added Mr Cameron.
Simon Stevens, NHS England boss, said he was “fully committed” to implementing the recommendations.
But Prof Sir Simon Wessely, Royal College of Psychiatrists president, warned it would take “sustained work” to end the “decades of inequality”.
And Prof Sheila Hollins, of the British Medical Association, pointed out such promises had been made before.
“Those suffering from mental illness need to see these pledges fulfilled.”