Waiting too long

Patients are waiting up to 13 years to get the specialist mental health help they need, an RCPsych study has shown.

A ComRes poll of 500 British adults diagnosed with a mental illness found that over half (55%) waited more than four weeks from referral to see an NHS mental health specialist, one in four more than three months and 6% more than a year.

Following the poll, RCPsych interviewed 25 respondents and found one man waited 13 years to get the help he needed.

For some, the long waits caused a deterioration in their mental health which in turn led to relationship problems including divorce (36%), financial troubles including getting into debt (32%) and work problems such as job loss (34%).

One respondent, a 26-year-old woman from Scotland, said: “I wouldn’t leave the house, I lost my job, I self-harmed. I had no help.”

Long waits for NHS mental health treatment are largely down to an insufficient mental health workforce, particularly when it comes to psychiatrists, who are doctors specialising in mental health.

We commissioned the poll as part of the launch of the next phase of our Choose Psychiatry campaign, to encourage more medical students to choose to specialise in psychiatry.

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