Extra cash is urgently needed to help the estimated 1.6 million people who are waiting for mental health treatment amid the pandemic, experts have warned.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said a record 1.5 million people received NHS mental health support in June but many more are in desperate need of treatment.
The figures for June are the highest since records began and 12.4% more than the same time last year.
The college is calling for additional funds on top of existing Government commitments alongside £3 billion of capital cash over three years to tackle issues such as the poor condition of mental health buildings.
Psychiatrists have seen demand for care surge during the pandemic, with referrals for people of all ages up 24% to 392,703 in June compared with 316,974 in June last year.
Speaking ahead of his evidence session to the Health and Social Care Committee’s backlog inquiry on Tuesday, Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We mustn’t overlook mental health when tackling the NHS backlog.
“The pandemic has been catastrophic for mental health and its devastating impact will be with us for years, but we shouldn’t let it wipe out years of progress.
“We need the right resources and decisive action on the long-term challenges to help stretched services that are struggling to meet demand.
“This means building new mental health hospitals, transforming our outdated infrastructure and training more specialist doctors to provide high-quality care.
“But this is about more than just the NHS – public health and the prevention of illness must be a top priority as well.”
One problem is the need to increase the number of psychiatry training places, the college said, while the Government should commit to increasing medical school places in England to 15,000 by 2028/29.
It is also calling on the Government to commit to almost £400 million extra spending annually by 2024/25 on drug and alcohol services in line with the Dame Carol Black review, published earlier this year.