Waiting times on the rise for mental health patients in Sunderland, report reveals

Some patients in Sunderland are facing four-month waits for mental health and disability support, a report has revealed.

Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 1:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 1:06 pm

Figures from the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust for 2017/18 reveals the trust is failing to meet waiting time targets.

No patient should wait longer than 18 weeks for contact with a community service – with the trust regularly measuring performance against these goals.

But as of March 31, 42% of Sunderland patients accessing the Children and Young Person Service (CYPS) are waiting longer than this.

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The data is framed against a backdrop of increased demand, with South Tyneside’s patient list jumping from 631 to 744 since December 2017.

But the report states several services in Sunderland have “deteriorated” including the borough’s Adult Diagnosis Service for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Data reveals 65% of patients had been waiting more than 18 weeks in March 31 this year compared to 46% in March 2017.

Sunderland’s Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis Service has also experienced patient delays.

In March this year, 71% of patients had been waiting more than 18 weeks for support, compared to 51% the previous year.

As of March 31, 285 patients across the trust waited 18 weeks for first contact with an adult or older people’s community service – a 20% rise on the same time last year.

Despite the trust being named provider of the year at the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards in 2017, bosses say they are struggling to keep up with demand.

The trust’s deputy director of commissioning and quality assurance, Anna Foster, admitted that it was “285 people too many”.

Speaking at Newcastle City Council’s health scrutiny committeel ast month, she said: “Because of the resources we have available and the demand, we have struggled to keep up with the demand that is there for our services.”

Ms Foster added that frontline staff need to be freed up from doing unnecessary duties, like paperwork and attending meetings, so they can spend more time with patients, but that it was “not as easy as saying that we need more money”.

A report by the ADHD foundation ‘A Lifetime Lost or a Lifetime Saved” states that “NHS guidelines are comprehensive but rarely followed” for the condition.

Despite the publication of guidelines that advise transitional arrangements from child to adult services, the report explains, the “widely-varied” nature of service delivery in the UK, can lead to a “gaps” or overlap in support.

“For adults, care can be somewhat of a ‘postcode lottery’, the report adds,

“with some regions having no or little care for those living with ADHD and very long waiting times where services do exist.”

CEO of the ADHD Foundation, Dr Tony Lloyd, said that waiting times around ADHD services are a national problem.

He explained that inaccurate diagnoses during childhood are “putting increased pressure on adult services” as patient numbers rise.

The health boss added that 40% of adults with ADHD suffer from anxiety and depression and that many use health services as they’re “in crisis”.

The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is seeking to achieve the 18-week to treatment standard for children and young people’s services across the board.

This includes waiting reductions for the Adult Gender Identity Service.

Chief Executive at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, John Lawlor, said:  “We offer a specialist mental health service which receives a considerable amount of referrals each year.

“In the absence of national standards, we are committed to a local mental health standard where 95.4% of adults in Sunderland access our services within 18 weeks.

“Waiting times have increased in our children’s services, however each referral is reviewed as soon as it is received to determine clinical need, with care and treatment beginning within 72 hours for urgent cases.

“We are committed to ensuring that all those who need us are seen within 18 weeks and this has been set as a key quality priority for us in 2018.”

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service