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Prof Swaran Singh and Prof Max Birchwood - The new mental health wait time target is crucial and parity with cancer is overdue

Nick Clegg has unveiled waiting time targets for people with mental health problems in England. Professor Swaran Singh and Professor Max Birchwood, from Warwick Medical School, have carried out research into early intervention services for mental health.

They said: "Psychosis is the most debilitating of the mental health problems and we now understand that early treatment at the first episode has a decisive impact on the course of the illness. We have pioneered the development of early intervention in psychosis services which are now recommended by NICE. However our research has shown that the average delay in accessing these services and treatment is over a year and that the majority of this occurs once individuals access the mental health system; this is because young people find services stigmatising and disengage before they get to the specialised early intervention service. Our research led by Warwick University and CLAHRC-west midlands in Birmingham shows that treatment needs to be given within 2 weeks following entry into services to reduce the overall impact of delay and that direct access to these services is crucial. One way of overcoming stigma is to use a youth specific access pathway which we have shown can improve engagement of young people and reduce treatment delay. This new wait time target is crucial and parity with cancer is overdue. We have supported the DH in developing this policy initiative."]

To organise an interview with Prof Singh or Prof Birchwood, please contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison,, 07824 540863, 02476 150868.