Headlines: July 24th, 2008

The lives of people facing long waits for NHS psychological treatments are being damaged by the delays according to a group of leading mental health charities today. They say mental health problems can get worse and that relationships break down. Some
people are forced to take time off work or even give up their jobs.

In their report, “While We Are Waiting”, the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Rethink, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and YoungMinds say national clinical guidelines recommend that psychological treatments should be made available on the NHS but accessing the therapies remains difficult and waiting times are
often more than six months and sometimes years.

One person whose case is included in the report told researchers, “The assessment was incredible. I felt that someone finally understood. When I was told that the wait after assessment was two years it felt like a real let down, offering a lifeline and then snatching it away.”

The report is being published before the roll out of the Government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, which is expected to bring 3,600 extra therapists to half of England’s primary care trusts over the next three years and to reduce waiting times in those areas. It says, though, that unless all PCTs are required to publish data about how long
patients have to wait for treatment,inequalities in access to talking therapies will continue.

“While We Are Waiting” is recommending that all PCTS should meet the aspiration that psychological therapy is available when needed urgently, within three to ten days. It also wants the NHS to communicate with patients about the different kinds of psychological treatments on offer and is calling for therapy
services to be flexible with weekend and evening appointments for those who work.

The Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Andrew McCulloch, said, “It takes a huge amount of courage to ask for help for a mental health problem. It is vital that those who need psychological therapy get it as early as possible because the consequences of having to wait can impact terribly on a person’s