Updates to Mental Health services and procedures amidst COVID-19 outbreak

Mental health services are being made available to those that are vulnerable or in isolation. It comes after the Government has set out to make changes to the Mental Health Act. 

The impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on mental health has been recognised as being significant. Anxiety, stress and depression are set to run high amongst the vulnerable and self-isolating. 

The government has set out to ensure that there will be enough psychiatrists to see all incoming patients throughout the outbreak. According to HSJ.co.uk this will involve changing the number of “section 12” approved doctors carrying out the assessments from two to one, freeing up more staff to avoid shortages.  

Other changes have also involved altering the continuation of treatment, whereby doctors will no longer need to seek SOAD approval to continue a patient’s treatment against their will. 

These changes are said to be temporary. More information on the changes to the act can be found on the Rethink.org page.

The latest development in available services to those in isolation is that an organisation has been set up to support people suffering from being on lockdown. 

The Help Hub aims to support those that are currently in isolation and need to talk to qualified therapists. They will offer the option to have a 20 minute chat with a therapist and help people stay calm throughout the outbreak period. 

However, they are yet to be up and running. According to their website, they are due to be active on the 23rd of March 2020. 

Alternatively, organisations such as Mind.org.uk have set up pages dedicated to mental health advice related to the outbreak and isolation periods. Helplines are also available during dedicated hours. 

In addition to this, the NHS have outlined their approach to treating patients with mental health problems, autism and learning disabilities. They have outlined that there are six key areas of focus for these patients; 

  1. Patient engagement – consideration for identification, communication and discharge of the vulnerable groups
  2. Inpatient and community services – managing capacity, help-lines, medication supplies and arranging to stop all non-essential clinics
  3. Workforce – preparing to work with fewer staff working fewer hours and keeping the workplace safe 
  4. Digital – digital approaches to supporting patients and staff (for example telephone appointments)
  5. Legal – working with the Ministry of Justice and the Mental Health Act and dealing with patients who do not comply with treatment
  6. Regulatory – managing regulatory responsibilities

COVID-19 webinars are being held every week by chief executives of mental health trusts and other mental health providers alongside the NHS. 

More information can be found on the NHS website and updates will be announced accordingly. 

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