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Health / NHS Shetland in talks with government as mental health waiting time figure goes well off target

MSP calls for urgent action as ‘waiting times have never been met by the government’

LESS than one quarter of patients waiting for psychological therapy in Shetland in the second quarter of 2019/20 were seen within 18 weeks.

That was some way off the 90 per cent target imposed by the Scottish Government for health boards across the country.

The figures came to light in a report to members of Shetland’s health and social care partnership, the integration joint board (IJB), on Thursday.

They showed that in quarter two of 2019/20 just 23.3 per cent of people had treatment from NHS Shetland within 18 weeks of referral.

This was a sharp drop from 68.6 per cent in the first quarter of the year, which was also well below the 90 per cent target.

The report said that the figures are “being reviewed and mental health management are currently in discussion with the Scottish government about alternative ways to meet this demand”.

Board chair Natasha Cornick asked if there was a specific reason behind the drop.

Interim IJB chief officer Jo Robinson said staff had not managed to come to a firm conclusion yet. “Regardless, we need to do more focused work in bringing that up to speed,” she said.

It is thought that the figure may be more a statistical issue – with overall numbers reducing potentially meaning that longer waits skewed the figure somewhat.

The overall figure for 2018/19 as a whole was 58.5 per cent.

Robinson said after the meeting that asking for more funding from the government for tackling mental health waits was one option being considered.

In response to the latest figures, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said that nationally Scotland needs an “urgent increase in staff and services” available to mental health patients.

“The Scottish Liberal Democrats led a debate in Holyrood on Wednesday on Scotland’s mental health crisis,” she said.

“The government removed the word ‘crisis’ from our motion in their amendment. These figures show exactly why we need to treat the situation as a crisis.

“Waiting times for treatment have never been met by the government. We need an urgent increase in staff and services available to be able to help people when they come forward for treatment. That isn’t a criticism of NHS and third sector staff who are working incredibly hard with the resources they have.”

The mental health area of Shetland’s IJB’s budget, meanwhile, is expected to be £276,000 overspent at the end of 2019/20, mainly due to costs associated with a locum consultant which includes flights and accommodation.

A report presented to the IJB also suggested that in some areas of the mental health service in Shetland there has been increased demand allied with difficulty in recruitment.

General Election - 12 December 2019