Mental Health Bites

The worst NHS waiting times for talking therapies

calendar-1990453_960_720According to latest statistics from the House of Commons, the worst NHS waiting times for talking therapies are just minutes from the clinic where my practice is based.  Wirral is reported to have an average waiting time for an initial talking therapy appointment of 139 days, when compared to those in South Tyneside who wait just 6 days!  This, by any measure, is an absolutely ridiculous disparity in service.


Further to this, Wirral also topped the longest wait from first session (assessment) to second session (actual therapy), bringing the combined wait for beginning therapy to a shocking 184 days.

Many other North West services also fell within the top 10 longest average waiting times including Cheshire East, Central and North Manchester, St Helens and Liverpool.  All of which are in areas surrounding me, and within the catchment from which my clients generally self-refer.

West Cheshire – the actual area I specifically fall under – seems to be ‘middle of the road’ for waiting times, but does come very near the top (3rd place) for the most referrals per 1000 people.

Ultimately, this all indicates that the region where we are based fares especially badly in terms of poor mental health, and poor access to services.

I find it very hard to write blog posts like this; highlighting the massive failings in mental health services (in most areas) is not in line with the positivity I initially set out to share through this website.  However, although the truth doesn’t make for easy reading, it is still important to acknowledge – especially as these statistics seem to not have made it into popular media amongst the current Brexit and Trump coverage.

I have worked with people who, after spending many weeks on NHS waiting lists, seek out private therapy.  They often arrive thinking they have not yet been seen because they are not a priority, because their mental health struggles are not ‘severe enough’.

In October 2014, the government set out national waiting time standards for mental health services.  They stated that by 2020 most patients should be seen within 6 weeks.  Even 6 weeks could be a death sentence to someone with Severe Depression, suicidal thoughts or an Eating Disorder.  And if we acknowledge (above) that in South Tyneside the average wait is already only 6 days – then why is this not attainable nationally?

5 thoughts on “The worst NHS waiting times for talking therapies

  1. Fiona Marcella

    I’m sorry that your area seems so bad, but would cynically question any areas that look good in this kind of comparison. Where are they getting their figures from? If it’s from the services themselves how can we find out whether they have clever ways of getting onto the waiting list in the first place; triage call centres which bounce back most referrals to the GP, messages to GPs discouraging referrals, blocks to self-referral or referrals from professionals other than the GP, endless rounds of assessment appointments “to find the right service”. And that’s for the people who actively seek help and have a diagnosis of sorts to seek help for. The only primary care statistics I’ve seen for eating disorders and “Personality Disorders” were woefully inadequate, and there is no motive or drive to improve them even when they are being used “for commissioning purposes” i.e. to help to plan the allocation of scarce resources.

  2. Stella Neophytou

    It is a big mistake not prioritising mental health. What the Government do not understand is the effect on physical health that mental health has and vise versa. People who are emotionally more wellbalanced have better outcomes when facing physical health issues.

  3. Marie

    Waiting times are one thing but who calculates how many times a person has had to go to their gp, attend A and E or end up in crisis before getting a SUCCESSFUL referral? Also, of the people who self refer and ask for help, what proportion are accepted versus those who are essentially told come back when your presentation is different, ergo you are sicker. I swear NSFT keep the waiting times low because they don’t have the resoures to see people and I pity the access and assessment team who’s job it is to relentlessly turn people away which I’ve seen so many times. I’m not sure this is wholly representative. More therapy hours available to refer people to is what is needed no pussyfooting around the issue.

    1. Kel Post author

      Very much Marie. Therapy seems to be totaly undervalued, and medical monitoring the priority. The medical monitoring is needed, but it is never going to secure someones recovery!

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