Doctors are seeing a rise in people reporting severe mental health difficulties, a group of NHS leaders says.  The NHS Confederation estimate that the rising demand will outstrip pre-coronavirus levels - perhaps by as much as 20%.

The NHS Confederation's mental health lead, Sean Duggan, said that when coronavirus cases were at their highest, people stayed away from services, as they did from other parts of the NHS.  He said, "A&E numbers were down, GP numbers were down. The same occurred in some of our mental health services as people tried to ease the burden on the health service and sought to avoid catching the virus.  The concern is, if you leave problems they can get worse."

This may explain some of the rise in more severe cases coming forward.  As well as people whose conditions deteriorated during lockdown, NHS services also expect an increase in demand for mental health services as a direct result of the pandemic itself, the report said.  It flagged isolation, substance use, domestic violence and economic uncertainty as factors that might contribute to the need for extra support.

There are also "particular concerns that the stark inequalities in accessing services and recovery rates that black and minority ethnic communities face will be exacerbated", the report said.  Mental health providers report that as well as seeing patients with "more significant needs", a higher proportion of their referrals are patients who are accessing services for the first time.

Meanwhile, providers predict infection control and social-distancing measures will mean they have an estimated 10-30% less capacity than normal.  Mr Duggan said he did not want to "medicalise everything... It's perfectly normal to feel uneasy and anxious" at such an uncertain time.

But nevertheless, there was a "real" increase in people needing mental health services, he added.

Read the full report here:

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