According 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?