Today is world mental health day, so it’s the perfect time to shine a light on the current issues with mental health care within the NHS
A recent survey from the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that patients with mental health issues are waiting up to 13 years to get support from the NHS. The implications behind this are huge, with those suffering ending up jobless, divorced or in financial distress because of the delay.
The survey from the Royal College of Psychiatrists looked at the experience of 500 individuals diagnosed with mental health issues, it found that some had waited up to 13 years to get the treatment they needed.
A quarter of the 500 patients, who were drawn from across the UK, waited more than three months to see an NHS mental health specialist. Six per cent had waited at least a year.
“It is a scandal that patients are waiting so long for treatment”, said Prof Wendy Burn, the college’s president. “The failure to give people with mental illnesses the prompt help they need is ruining their lives.”
The survey, undertaken by Comres, also found that more than a third (37%) of those who faced a wait to access specialist help saw their mental health deteriorate during that time.
One in three of those in the study indicated that their mental health worsened, 36% said they experienced relationship difficulties, 34% had had problems at work, including losing their job, and 32% had suffered financially.
The NHS in England is trying to shorten waiting times and increase access to mental health care for children and adults. The Care Quality Commission found last year that some under-18s in England were waiting for 18 months to get help.
“Long waits for mental health support can be both costly and distressing for people. From childhood to later life, it is vital that mental health support is on hand when people need it”, said Sarah Hughes, the chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health.
“The longer people wait, the more problems are likely to escalate to crisis point and the greater impact the mental health difficulty has on our health, education, work and relationships. The human cost is immeasurable, but we know it has an enduring impact.”
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “It would be appropriate to highlight that, after decades of underinvestment, the NHS is ramping up mental health services, including expanding talking therapies and improving treatment times while the NHS’s long-term plan will set out further priorities for the years ahead.”
It is also boosting other key areas of mental health care, such as A&E liaison psychiatry services and support for mothers with conditions related to giving birth such as postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis, in its drive to improve provision.