Mental health patients wait 'years' for treatment

Woman's hands

Patients are being asked to wait several years for some specialist mental health treatment, figures obtained by BBC Wales have shown.

While many patients with acute and chronic problems get treatment within weeks, some areas have current waiting times of up to 50 months.

The British Medical Association in Wales called the delays "unacceptable".

Welsh Labour, who have run the NHS in Wales since 1999, said mental health spending went up £3m last year.

The longest delay was within Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, where patients can wait for up to 50 months to see a clinical psychologist.

A board spokeswoman put this down to "long-term sickness issues" and said it was "currently seeking to appoint more staff".

  • In north Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board patients can wait up to 26 months, but high-risk patients are seen "immediately" as a priority
  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said none of its patients should wait longer than nine months for GP-based counselling, while 73% of 1,000 people recently referred had waited less than half a year. The area's traumatic stress clinic has waiting lists of over a year, but new staff have been recently appointed
  • Cwm Taf University Health Board has 11 patients waiting more than 26 weeks but it could not say what the longest wait was
  • At Hywel Dda University Health Board, current waits are between 54 weeks for cognitive behavioural psychotherapy and 119 weeks for psychodynamic therapy
  • Powys Teaching Health Board said its figures were not immediately available
  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board did not provide figures

More investment

British Medical Association in Wales spokeswoman Charlotte Jones said: "It's unacceptable. It's not right for the patients of Wales. We need to see more investment - we need to see a true commitment to resolving this once and for all.

"We continue to highlight it as a problem in general practice, but secondary services are also overwhelmed with demand.

"We are talking a lot more money, but it's worthwhile."

Mental health charity Gofal said it was frustrated that despite investment, waiting times were still too long in many areas.

It wants more counselling provision and better data monitoring.

In England, treatment and waiting times data is collected quarterly from mental health service providers but most Welsh health boards initially said this information was not available.

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Media captionJulie Bignell, from Wyllie, Caerphilly county, speaks about her three-month wait to see a psychiatrist

The Liberal Democrats said it was time mental health was treated "as seriously as physical health".

A spokesman added: "We would introduce a core set of mental health data, and would work with mental health experts to introduce new waiting time standards for mental health, including for access to psychological therapies."

A UKIP spokesman said their party would increase health care spending with £100m saved "elsewhere from the Welsh budget" and would implement an 18-day referral target for cognitive behavioural therapy.

Plaid Cymru said it would increase funding by 2% - or £68m - a year until 2020/21, and the current poor standards of data meant "increased investment in our mental health won't be as effective as patients deserve".

A spokesman for the Conservatives said the party would create a new 28-day target for access to talking therapies, and increase spending on mental health.

But Labour maintained it had made significant improvements to mental health care in Wales, including the introduction last October of a 28 day-treatment target for 80% of mental health patients.

"The majority of treatment following emergency and urgent referrals will start immediately following assessment," a spokesman said.

"The National Psychological Therapies Management Committee action plan includes a target time for treatment in secondary care of 26 weeks - the same as for treatment for physical conditions."

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