RCGP backs call to tackle 'unacceptable' variation in mental health care

The RCGP has joined calls to reduce inequalities in mental health care across the UK, as a survey reveals patients in some areas face waiting times of over a year between GP referral and psychological treatment.

Mental health waiting times were criticised (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Mental health waiting times were criticised (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

We Need to Talk, a coalition that includes the RCGP, criticised the ‘huge variation’ in referral times across different CCGs and called on the next government to make access to talking therapies ‘an immediate priority’ after the election.

The coalition, which comprises 18 mental health charities, service providers and royal colleges, said services were ‘unable to cope’ with the increasing demand for psychological therapies.

The RCGP said GPs will play a 'crucial' role in helping to address the problems.

The coalition surveyed over 2,000 patients who had attempted to access therapy in the last two years, which revealed large differences in waiting times across the country.

As many as one in 10 patients reported waiting over a year between referral and assessment, while four in 10 said they had to wait more than three months. Many reported further delays in starting therapy after their assessment, with a third experiencing delays of over three months.

Two thirds of patients said they felt their mental illness had worsened during this long waiting period, with 40% saying they turned to self harm. One in six attempted suicide.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said it was ‘a travesty that so many people are falling through the gaps’.

She said: ‘Mental health is a clinical priority for the RCGP and we understand how important it is to refer patients to the right place at the right time. It is crucial that GPs are part of this coalition so that we can take the necessary action to address this.’

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