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Health / NHS ‘working hard’ on reducing psychological therapy waiting times

An image from the Healthy Shetland website.

NHS Shetland says it remains “committed to seeing patients as soon as possible” after the health board was placed at the bottom of the list when it came to figures for psychological therapies target waiting times across Scotland in 2022/23.

Figures in the Audit Scotland’s recent report on adult mental health access showed that in 2022/23 62.4 per cent of patients in Shetland were seen within 18 weeks. The target is 90 per cent.

This was the lowest percentage of all health boards in Scotland, with only NHS Orkney reaching the 90 per cent target.

However, NHS Shetland is one of the health boards showing an upwards trend. For instance, in 2017/18 its figure was 56.3 per cent.

Data from Public Health Scotland for this current year show that in April for example the 90 per cent target was met, before the figure dropped again.

NHS Shetland’s consultant clinical psychologist Mary Roberts said the local team have been “working as hard as we can to reduce waiting times, but there is always room for improvement”.

“NHS Shetland psychological therapies is a small service and when a clinical member of staff leaves this can impact waiting times significantly,” she said.

“When I took up post and started seeing patients early in 2021, the priority was to see those people who had been waiting the longest time while still paying attention to the 18 weeks target.

“In addition, in primary care there were challenges around staff recruitment which impacted on the waiting times in this part of the service.”

Roberts said in January this year new measures were introduced to improve early access to secondary care psychology, in particular by introducing a telephone screening appointment usually within eight to ten weeks of referral.

“It is important to note that the trajectory of the graph in the report is moving upwards which demonstrates the commitment the team has shown to seeing patients as early as possible and to all their hard work,” she added.

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“We remain committed to seeing patients as soon as possible.”

On a national basis, Audit Scotland said “accessing adult mental health services in Scotland remains slow and complicated for many people”.

Auditor General for Scotland Stephen Boyle said: “The Scottish Government needs much more information to understand the difference its investment in mental health services is making, from specialist services to community-based support.

“That planning must include moving beyond using waiting times as the sole measure of whether services are improving the lives of those in need. And it needs to include a costed delivery plan for the care that people can expect in their communities.”

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