Mental health referrals in Sunderland 'an awful lot higher' than last year

Health chiefs in Sunderland have warned of the pressures mental health services are under due to Covid-19, with referrals for some groups 50% higher than pre-pandemic.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 9:15 am
Sunderland City Hall.

Health chiefs in Sunderland have warned pandemic pressures on mental health services have seen referrals surge by up to 50% among some groups.

It came as Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee heard mental health referrals are “an awful lot higher” than last year.

David Chandler, chief officer and chief finance officer at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), noted while the “good news” is people are being referred for help, an increasing number of young people need support.He said: “In terms of adults and children’s mental health services, at this moment in time our referrals for children’s mental health services especially, our referrals are 50% higher than they were in 2019/20.

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“That’s an awful lot higher again than where we were last year.”

Speaking at the committee’s latest meeting, Mr Chandler added 129 people are awaiting assessment, a decrease on previous years.

He said: “In terms of access times, they are so much better than they were in 2019/20, but there are still people on the waiting list.

“That’s 100-odd we’d rather not have, but the numbers were 400-500 this time two years ago.”

But he admitted an-18 week target for seeing patients is “still not ideal”.

However, it is hoped a single point of access to mental health support providers will help patients avoid being “bounced between two services”.

Mr Chandler added: “You’ll go away, you’ll be assessed and you’ll go to the right place first time, that should bring down some of those waiting times as well.”

Philip Foster, managing director at All Together Better Alliance, which combines providers and commissioning organisations in Sunderland, warned Covid-19 is impacting mental health staffing levels due worker being forced to isolate.

He said: “We’re managing that demand on mental health services. People traditionally think of the pressures on the acute physical healthcare element, there’s huge pressures on the mental health services as well, so we’re trying to do all we can.”

He also praised the work of voluntary services for their “vital part” in helping to support residents with issues such as mental health concerns during the pandemic.

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