Patients waiting three months for NHS psychological therapy

By Pete Madeley | Health | Published:

Thousands of people across the Black Country and Staffordshire waited up to three months for NHS psychological therapy, new figures reveal.

Patients face a three-month therapy wait

Mental health charity Mind called the figures worrying, and warned that excessive waits between sessions can impact recovery from mental health conditions.

NHS Digital data shows 2,335 patients at five NHS groups across the region waited for at least 90 days for a second therapy appointment between February 2018 and January 2019.

The figures include 1,165 people at the Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), 475 people at Walsall CCG, 355 patients in Dudley, and 185 people at the Wolverhampton CCG.

At the Stafford and Surrounds CCG, 670 people waited more than a month for a follow up appointment over the period, with 155 waiting for a minimum of three months.

NHS guidance says "services should guard against hidden waits within a course of treatment" – although there is no official target for second appointments.


Geoff Heyes, head of health policy at Mind, said: "We find it really worrying that people are facing such long waits between their first and second therapy appointments, meaning they are more likely to become more unwell before their next session.

"Long gaps also impact your ability to build a relationship with your therapist, and worrying that you've not been offered regular enough appointments can have a hugely detrimental impact on recovery.


"National guidance is clear that people should not have to wait an excessive time between the first and second appointment, so local services should be striving to give people timely support."

NHS England's Improved Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) programme aims to improve therapy services for a range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress.

Dr Billy Boland, vice chair of the general adult psychiatry faculty, said: "Clearly, more work needs to be done to improve waiting times for follow up appointments. The quicker these are, the better outcomes there will be for patients.

"For it to be a true success, IAPT needs to improve its offer as a whole, and not just focus on the initial access. It should be continuously improving."

An NHS England spokesperson said: “As Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have acknowledged, the widely agreed waiting time targets for referral to first treatment for psychological therapies have not just consistently been met but also exceeded the national standards – there is also an unprecedented level of transparency when it comes to all IAPT data, meaning that none of the waits are in fact ‘hidden’.

“In the past year alone IAPT has had over one million people referred for care and most importantly has helped hundreds of thousands of people to overcome their depression and anxiety, and better manage their mental health.”

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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