Referrals to NHS mental health services are reported as being at their highest for two years, although still lower than pre-pandemic.

In my roles as a Court of Protection solicitor at Shoosmiths and Chair of Trustees of Headway Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, I have seen first hand the mental health struggles of disabled and vulnerable people over the last 18 months, and their families/carers. Fear, anxiety, isolation and depression have been common issues but accessing support has been virtually impossible. Even those who need urgent, crisis intervention have not been able to find it.

I believe that the increase in mental health referrals is likely to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of those who need support. I fully expect an increasing wave of referrals to mental health services for both adults and children, and I worry about whether mental health services will be able to cope with the influx of patients. Mental health is a highly specialist area which requires detailed training, adequate allocation of time for appointments, empathy, and often, in the more complex cases, a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners to support individuals. 

Many of the people I come into contact with who have mental health needs also have other complex, underlying medical conditions such as brain injuries, cerebral palsy or neuro-degenerative illnesses. Providing support for those individuals is challenging and involves considering the impact of the organic (physical) brain abnormalities as well as mental health. In pre-pandemic times it was difficult to obtain referrals for the right level of NHS support, it remains to be seen what type and quality of services can now be made available.