Mental health patients wait up to 755 days for first treatment

Fifth year of special measures – where’s the improvement?

Staff shortages are contributing to adults in north Wales waiting up to 755 days for mental health care, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The FOI also showed the average waiting list was a year, with military veterans facing a 10-month wait.

The information request was made by Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, who has long campaigned for better health care in the region.

He said: “The information shows how desperate the situation still is in Betsi Cadwaladr health board in terms of access to mental health care.

“One of the reasons BCUHB was taken into special measures more than four years ago was because of deficiencies in mental health care. Despite that, we see lengthening waiting lists with some patients waiting 775 days – more than two years – for their first intervention in the West division.

“This is not a criticism of the hard-pressed staff, who are doing their best in impossible circumstances. There is currently a 25% vacancy rate in adult mental health psychologists and therapists and that means psychologists and therapists in post are having to work round the clock to address the problems they face. This pressure urgently needs addressing because I’m sure it is contributing to the lengthy delays patients are facing. The delays are also, I have no doubt, contributing to deteriorating mental health and mean that the care needed is more intense.”

Mr Gruffydd said that, despite direct Labour government oversight of the health board, there were still concerns about mental health care in north Wales, with historic cases still to be resolved. He said the lack of progress as special measures entered its fifth year was a source of great concern: “Retention and recruitment of staff is all important and those experts need more support. It’s vital that staff, patients and the general public have full confidence in the service being provided by the health board’s senior management. The revelation that patients are having to wait a year for their first treatments and that veterans are waiting 10 months suggests that management are not taking this crisis as seriously as they should.

“I also asked how many of the 1217 patients currently waiting for mental health treatment were being transferred to the private sector to speed up the process but that request was refused. I think it’s important we know what’s going on in this important field of our health care system and I’ll continue to make enquiries to get to the bottom of this.

“People waiting to access mental health care deserve better.”

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