Dangerous Wait Times For Mental Health Patients

The NHS is constantly in the news, either under attack from all directions or patriotically defended as a treasure of the nation. The healthcare system has been thrown into the headlines again due to an investigation which has found that patients with serious mental health issues are being left to wait as long as two years for specialist support.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has found that thousands are waiting more than six months for access to 'talking therapies' to help them cope with negative thoughts and feelings.

However they believe the true extent of the waiting time problem is likely to be much larger due to 90% of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) not recording any waiting times for talking therapies for those with severe mental illness at all.

Of those who did keep records the BMA found 3,700 patients waited more than six months, and 1,500 waited more than a year.

While efforts are being made to improve access to support for mild anxiety and depression through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, there is growing inequality compared with those suffering from serious mental health problems who often need both medication and face to face therapies.

Without measuring and recording the waiting times for the therapies on offer, the CCGs are not only failing to provide adequate treatment for patients with severe mental illnesses, but also failing to highlight the problem so that it can be fixed.