Health bosses will appoint 17 staff to reduce a waiting list for mental health services – despite accusations of “just throwing money at something without any detail”.
The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) will recruit the staff in a bid to meet the Scottish Government’s 90 per cent target for patients waiting 18 weeks for psychological therapies. The board agreed to invest £1.26 million as well as recurring funding of £678,000 to appoint the staff to help clear the backlog.
Tony Duncan, the IJB’s interim chief strategy and performance officer, said: “We have a problem with delays in those requiring psychological therapy being treated within 18 weeks which is the target that’s set. There’s been quite a lot of activity over recent weeks to do something about this. What I would suggest is we are using the Action 15 funds from the financial year, as part of the solution to this – to bring in additional staff, 17, to tackle the backlog over a period of 18 months, to drive it down to acceptable levels.”
Linda Irvine Fitzpatrick told the board that some patients are waiting more than 12 months for treatme
Conservative Lothian MSP Miles Briggs, said: “I welcome the proposal to recruit an additional 17 staff to deliver psychological therapies in NHS Lothian, but recruiting these staff will take time and this decision should have been made before now. There are over 2,000 adults in Lothian who have waited over 18 weeks to be seen by mental health professionals, some of whom will have been waiting for much longer.”
Richard Williams said the problems have been known for some time. He added: “I’m just a bit concerned that we seem to be expecting that we are going to find lots of staff and use non-recurring funding and solve the problem.
“To ask us to commit recurring Action 15 monies, I think our GP colleagues might be a little bit anxious about that. I think the expectation amongst GP colleagues is that Action 15 money will be for GP practices and their clusters for mental health support.”
Helen FitzGerald said she had “significant discomfort” over approving the recruitment. She added: “It feels like we are just throwing money at something without any detail. I’m sure there is detail, but we haven’t got it. You’ve indicated that these are mostly psychology staff but that’s not necessarily the answer to this problem.”
But chief officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, Judith Proctor, reassured the board that the money needs to be spent. As part of the IJB’s strategic plan, adult mental health services will be redesigned by setting up “Thrive” centres and networks.
Ms Proctor said: “We have an outstanding waiting list of people who have not been well served and are going to continue to wait on a list that will go up and up and up. At the same time, the transition into our Thrive centres won’t actually be able to do what we want it to do to adequately meet that demand.”
She added: “The proposal here is to continue to develop the Thrive centres, whilst at the same time, doing what we can to tackle what are pretty unacceptable waiting lists of people not get the therapies required.
“We think that it’s an absolutely appropriate use of the Action 15 money – that’s been confirmed by colleagues in Scottish Government. With this level of wait, the number of people that have been waiting too long and that list grows while we don’t take action.”