More than 1,000 wait months for mental health therapy in Redbridge

Mental Health Awareness Week events offer advice and support on all kinds of mental illnesses (pictu

Mental Health Awareness Week events offer advice and support on all kinds of mental illnesses (picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

More than 1,000 people in Redbridge waited three months or longer for NHS psychological therapy, figures reveal.

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 1,120 people in the area served by Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – the body who decides which health services to fund in the borough – waited longer than three months for a second therapy appointment in the year to January 2019.

That amounts to 52pc of all patients who had their second treatment session over that 12 month period.

A further 710 waited between 28 and 90 days, meaning more than 80pc of people having NHS therapy in Redbridge faced these “hidden waits” of over a month between appointments.

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.

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“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.

Targets state that 75pc of people in the programme should have their first treatment appointment within six weeks of referral, and 95pc within 18 weeks.

In Redbridge, 3,950 people had their first therapy session over the 12-month period – 98pc of which were in treatment within six weeks of being referred.

None waited longer than 18 weeks.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, which co-authored the guidance for the IAPT programme, said it was pleased that targets were being met, but acknowledged that improvements were needed.

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 spokesman 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.”

Redbridge CCG has not yet responded to the Recorder’s multiple requests for comment.