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Health / Concerns remain over mental health waiting times

An image from the Healthy Shetland website saying there is always support available.

AN IMPROVEMENT plan is in the works for NHS Shetland’s adult mental health services following concerns over waiting times.

One key area of concern is the time some people are waiting for the psychological therapy service.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson told a meeting of the health board on Tuesday that a significant number of people were waiting longer than 18 weeks, which is the national guideline.

A report presented to board members by audit committee chairman Lincoln Carroll said that concerns were raised about the performance of the adult mental health service by internal auditors.

An improvement plan was requested for 10 August, but that plan “did not offer adequate assurance to the committee”, the report said.

It was agreed that there needed to be “significant improvement” in the plan – with an updated version requested for the next audit committee meeting on 29 September.

The “significant risk” about the performance of the psychological therapy service has also been highlighted by external auditors, and due to those concerns there is involvement from the Scottish Government.

The audit committee also asked that the health board place adult mental health services on the NHS Shetland corporate risk register.

Carroll told Wednesday’s meeting that it was “something we need to keep a very close eye on”.

“At this time we really need get it right for the people of Shetland,” he said.

In some instances there have been waits of up to two and a half years for seeing a clinical psychologist.

A report from public health and planning principal Elizabeth Robinson conceded that waiting times for psychological therapies remained a concern.

There is a target for 90 per cent of completed waits to be less than 18 weeks, but numbers have been well below this recently.

Recruitment has been a challenge for certain areas in the mental health team.

“The mental health team has been working on a number of ways of managing the waiting times, but they continue to be high,” Robinson said.

“We are currently in the process of redesigning a therapist post as we have been unable to recruit.

“We have submitted a draft improvement plan as part of our remobilisation plan that shows how we will achieve 70 per cent by December 2020, which will recover the position for talking therapies.

“Clinical psychology is proving to be more difficult to recover, with a single handed practitioner continuing to receive referrals in addition to the backlog.

“This single handed practitioner is due to retire at the end of September. The board is currently looking at different models in order to ensure there is no gap in service.”