People's mental health is deteriorating because they wait too long for treatment
Mental health patients in Scotland are being forced to wait 18 weeks or more for psychological therapy services, a new report has warned.
It has led to Scotland’s largest mental health charity calling for a radical new approach to how patients access treatment.
The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), which compiled the data, says waiting times for services need to be a higher priority and given “parity with treatments for physical illness.”
Statistics from NHS Scotland show just five out of 14 health boards achieved the Scottish Government’s target of delivering a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks to 90% of patients.
SAMH is now calling for the Scottish Government to commission an independent inquiry into the failure to meet current targets with a commitment to support a reduction of waiting times to 12 weeks or less.
From those surveyed almost half found the length of waiting time very or quite difficult. A fifth waited one to three months to begin treatment, while over a tenth waited between three to six months, and 38 per cent felt that once in therapy they did not receive enough sessions.
Patients’ experience of accessing psychological therapies in Scotland is simply unacceptable - Billy Watson
Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said: “Patients’ experience of accessing psychological therapies in Scotland is simply unacceptable. We are calling for this failing target to be made a priority, with an independent review into the failings of many health boards to meet the 18 week target.
“Scotland was the first country to introduce waiting time targets in 2010. We call on the Scottish Government to support all health boards to meet this and an interim 12 weeks target, giving mental health parity with treatments for other illnesses.
“Learnings can be taken from England‘s Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in which recovery rates are monitored and measured.
"They are reporting a recovery rate in excess of 45% with an expected financial benefit of over £4 million by the end of the financial year with 61% of people seen within 28 days.”
Immediate action is needed, the charity says, as the longer people wait for therapy the more likely it was their mental health deteriorated.
In its manifesto - Ask once get help fast - SAMH sets out a number of recommendations to be considered by the Scottish Government to improve access to services, including psychological therapies, to help Scotland become a world leader of mental health care.