Almost 5000 vulnerable patients in the Southern Trust area, which includes South Tyrone, are waiting longer than they should for mental health services. In the latest evidence of Mid Ulster’s hidden mental health crisis, Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) figures revealed that 4,963 local patients are currently waiting longer than 13 weeks to see a mental health professional, the second highest figure in Northern Ireland.
The figure for the Northern Trust area, which covers Cookstown and Magherafelt, was the highest at 7,866.
In April, the board set itself a target stating “no patient waits longer than 13 weeks to access psychological therapies”.
A report published by an independent commission in June called for significant improvement in mental health services in the north. Meanwhile, GPs have reported a huge rise in mental health conditions.
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said the trusts are currently working to reduce the waiting times from within available resources.
“I am firmly of the view that the current waiting lists are unacceptably long”, she told the Assembly. “However, unless we tackle the root causes this will remain the case, as we have a 20th century model delivering services for a 21st century population.
“This is having an increasingly negative impact on the quality and experience of care. The long term solution is the transformation of our health and social care system as outlined in Delivering Together.” The minister also paid tribute to hard-working staff across the sector.
“They continue to work incredibly hard and on average deliver 9,000 outpatient appointments, 2,600 inpatient/day case procedures and 31,000 diagnostic tests per week.”