Thousands of patients facing long waits for access to psychological "talking therapies"
'The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that thousands of patients are waiting more than six months for access to psychological "talking therapies" to help them cope with negative thoughts and feelings.'
By: St John's Counselling & Therapy Services
As bad as these figures seem, they grossly underestimate the full scale of the problem. It is virtually invisible in the health service; the BMA has found.
Year-long waits were found in most services which recorded them. In those trusts without records, the BMA found examples of long waits in reports by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) watchdog.
Two-year waits were found at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust in 2015 and 'had not improved' a year later.
The NHS does closely track waits for one talking therapy service: IAPT (improving access to psychological therapies) which they say is improving and reports that waits of 9-12 weeks is possible and IAPT waits is showing improvement. Patient feedback states that the wait is often for a telephone assessment after that there was a further wait to see a therapist and this service was limited to 4- 6 sessions.
IAPT wasn't made for people with severe mental health problems. It was established a decade ago to tackle the 'biggest causes of misery', depression and chronic anxiety, and so cut disability benefits bills and boost tax coffers. Since then, it has grown in political popularity, its workforce now slated for another major expansion.
Most doctors want and welcome more IAPT services. But it doesn't offer: those off the political radar and suitable for the more seriously ill.
Such patients need different kinds of talking therapies, says NHS psychiatrist and BMA mental health policy lead Andrew Molodynski. 'Some of their illnesses can be and are eased by drugs, when they are taken. Others aren't or need a combination of both,' he adds.
Debbie Reed, MBACP Accredited Counsellor, Managing Director of St John's Counselling Services in Bromsgrove, says her private practice has never been so busy and the last two years has seen a 60% rise in enquires for therapy and says that; 'the true extent of the waiting time problem is likely to be much larger. While patients wait often their mental health continues deteriorates'.
Often options available to people are limited and they are left to either sit out the long wait or seek private support from a mental health professional or look for charities that offer support in the issues they are struggling with.
Local charities are often driven by budget demands and with reduction in funding, diminishing resources often the wait for this service can be equally long. Another option is to pay, the average fee for private therapy can be vary between £30 - £60 per session, depending on the experience of the therapist, not every-one can afford to pay for this support.
Debbie Reed reported that in her experience often people who have been waiting in the system find that their mental health deteriorates and by the time they get seen their issues can be quite complex. Further, Debbie believes it's important that people get the help they need in the early stages and says;
'Imagine if you were to cut your hand and it just needed some stitches and some local care around the sensitive area of the wound., If you had to wait months with this sensitive area untreated, it could spread leading to septicaemia affecting the whole body. Then what you have is a serious medical condition to treat. Mental health is a systematic illness, because our thoughts affect our body our feelings and our behaviour, left untreated we are facing a complex illness that leads to people becoming disabled.'
With these issues in mind in 2016, Debbie set out to find a way of making therapy more accessible for those stuck in the system and created a life line to beat the long waiting lists. Enlisting the help of Local universities;
'Without the right therapy, some people get worse and the risk to their mental health increases. They bounce between their GPs and accident and emergency departments, desperate for help.'
However, Debbie reports, 'there is much more that needs to be done to support those with more complex issues. St John's service is available for Adults with non-complex issues. For people who have a complex diagnosed personality disorder this service is not for you. This service is Ideal for; people who are stuck in a negative thought patterns, or present with issues such as bereavement, Relationship issues, feeling lost, sad, depressed, anxious, stressed, alone, or just in need of help in working through difficult situations etc. Debbie's next project is to raise awareness and funding for mental health so she is then able to offer low cost support for those with complex issues.
For more information about St John's Counselling or the Low- cost service call;
Practice Manager: Debbie Reed on 07527 585011 or