The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has an enormous adverse impact on the English populations‚’ mental health compared to pre-pandemic trends. Forecasts predict that up to 10 million citizens will need new or additional mental health support, with 1.33 million new cases of moderate to severe anxiety and 1.82 million new cases of moderate to severe depression. Conclusively, mental health services must be able to provide for approximately 20 percent of England‚’s population in the near future (Centre for Mental Health, 2020).
In England, 1,694,790 new referrals were received between April 2019 and March 2020, an increase of 5.7 percent compared to the previous period. Although the NHS operation standard states that 92 percent of prospective patients start therapy within 18 weeks, the number declined to 68.2 percent (NHS, 2021). In some cases, a four-week waiting period between the initial assessment and a second appointment is imposed on 64 percent of patients, while 23 percent have to wait for more than 21 weeks. (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2020). The NHS is unable to meet its standards with the number decreasing annually even before the COVID-19 pandemic (NHS Digital, 2020). Although innovative methods such as teleservices are implemented, the obstacle remains to be staff shortages to use the tools. The gap between supply and demand in mental healthcare services is not solvable through human resource capabilities.
As England is facing a mental health epidemic, the government must prioritize a response to the increasing demand for mental health care and mitigate the psychological consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. A digital transformation of mental health services with a trend towards Artificial Intelligence-based therapy could be the solution to ensure widespread access and availability of emergency psychosocial support, with a focus on sustainability.