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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Mental health care pathways

We develop guidance for NHS England and NICE to support delivery of the ambitions set out in The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

  • We set out evidence-based mental health care pathways that promote timely and equal access to effective treatment and health care
  • We provide guidance to commissioners and service providers on how the pathways can be implemented and the benchmarks achieved.

For each topic below, we developed detailed implementation guidance with accompanying appendices and helpful resources.

You can also access a short format guide, which provides a summary of the pathway and benchmarks, and an overview of the policy and strategic context for each topic.


Dementia care

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As set out in The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2020 and the Five Year Forward View, good evidence-based dementia care is of prime importance in order to increase the number of people being diagnosed and starting treatment, and improve post-diagnostic support.

You can find out more about the policy drivers and strategic context for transforming dementia care in our short guide (PDF).

The Dementia Care Pathway (PDF) full implementation guidance outlines the dementia care pathway and associated benchmarks to support improvements in the delivery and quality of care and support, for people living with dementia and their families and carers.

It accompanies and builds on a shorter guide published by NHS England above and contains key commissioning and service development considerations.

The appendices and helpful resources (PDF) includes a diagram of the full dementia care pathway, a summary of NICE recommended care for people along the Dementia Well Pathway, information on HEE’s Dementia Core Skills Education and Training Framework and on NHS England Dementia: Good Care Planning, guidance for recording dementia care pathway benchmarks in the MHSDS, recommendations for outcomes measurement and examples of services who are already providing high quality care and elements of the pathways and some helpful web-based resources.

Dementia Care Plan: coding resource links to Section 4: Good Care Planning of the Dementia Care Pathway: appendices and helpful resources document above and has been developed to support this, as well as the:

This coding resource spans the core components which constitute the minimum information that should be included in dementia care planning and offers a frame of reference and a view of the depth and breadth of the areas to address in dementia care planning.


A graphic visual representation introducing the Dementia Care Pathways.


Dementia care quote


Early intervention in psychosis services

In response to the Mental Health Taskforce, there was a drive to make sure people experiencing first episode psychosis have timely access to evidence-based care.

The EIP implementation guidance (PDF) describes in detail how commissioners and providers can implement the pathway for EIP services.

See EIP helpful resources.

  • Early intervention in psychosis - recording and reporting
    This document provides guidance for services delivering care to people experiencing a first episode of psychosis. It describes how to record and report on interventions and outcomes using SNOMED codes,  and how to submit this data to NHS digital as part of the Mental Health Services Data Set (MHSDS).
Early intervention psychosis pull quote


Eating disorders services for children and young people

Future in Mind and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health made the case for promoting high-quality care for children and young people.

As part of this ambition, we developed two pieces of guidance about eating disorders services:



Emergency mental health care

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health called for a 24/7 NHS for people with mental health problems, with high-quality urgent and emergency mental health care that is fit for purpose in a modern health care system, and accessible to people of all ages.

The following documents, covering a range of different services, set out how that ambition can be achieved:

Emergency care quote



The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health set out a commitment to expand IAPT services and improve quality further, with an ambition to increase access to psychological therapies for an additional 600,000 people with common mental health problems each year. This will include those who have long-term conditions and medically unexplained symptoms. The following pieces of guidance provide practical advice about how to deliver that expansion and continue to improve quality:



Perinatal mental health care

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health highlighted a system of patchy care and fragmentation for women with perinatal mental health problems, and recommended that national clinical quality benchmarks and pathways could help to address this and support at least 30,000 more women to access mental health care during pregnancy and after giving birth. These pathways are described fully in these documents:

  • Short guide (PDF)
    This guidance sets out the policy initiatives and strategic context for transforming perinatal mental health care. It explains why this transformation must be a priority for commissioners, providers and sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems (ICSs)

  • Full implementation guidance (PDF) provides detailed information on the pathway, what is important to people who use services, what perinatal mental health problems are and the treatments that should be provided, and the principles for delivering high quality, compassionate care

  • Appendices and helpful resources (PDF) includes NICE recommended care for perinatal mental health problems, recommendations for outcomes measurement and examples of services who are already providing high quality care and elements of the pathways.

  • Service specification (PDF)

    Service specification (Word)
    The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Faculty has produced a template service specification for specialist community perinatal mental health teams. This can help commissioners to implement the perinatal mental health care pathways

  • Infographic (PDF)
    A graphic visual representation introducing the Perinatal Mental Health Care Pathways.




Work in development

We are also developing guidance on community mental health care for adults and advancing mental health equality.

We work with the College Centre for Quality Improvement to develop a self-assessment and improvement programme to support the delivery of the pathways.


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