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Mental health crisis? Almost 2,700 waiting on vital services in Southern Trust at end of March

'As we carefully rebuild our services we are prioritising those in greatest need and will continue to work to address the ongoing waiting list issues'

Depression mental health

Over 1,200 people had been waiting at least 13 weeks to access vital mental health services in the Southern Trust at the end of March.

The figures have given an indication of waiting lists as there have been claims that the system is struggling to cope.

The most recent available information took account of the situation as it stood on March 31.

It revealed that close to 2,700 were on the waiting list for the range of mental health services, with some there for a matter of weeks, although approaching half of them had been waiting to be called over three months and more.

In fact, it was confirmed that 1,207 people were waiting to be referred for mental health services – for 13 weeks or more – by the end of March, with no indication of the ‘or more’ to reveal just how long those at the higher limit had been in the system.

The majority of those waiting longest – 630 – were to access adult mental health services.

Indeed, in all, by the end of March, a total of 1,472 were actively waiting for adult mental health. Most – 1,423 – were aged between 18 and 65.

Of the total, 340 had been on the waiting list for up to three weeks, with 184 between three and six weeks, 161 between six and nine, and 156 from nine to 13 weeks – and, of course, the 630 who were waiting 13 weeks and more.

The information for the Southern Trust was provided through Health Minister Robin Swann in response to a question from SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty.

By March 31, there were 279 waiting to access child and adolescent mental health services. Most of these – 138 – had been waiting up to three weeks, 73 up to six weeks, 56 up to nine weeks and 12 between nine and 13 weeks. There was nobody waiting over 13 weeks.

The same could not be said of dementia services where, once again, 505 were on waiting lists. The majority of these – 336 – had been waiting for more than 13 weeks.

A total of 418 were on the waiting list for psychological therapies, with more than half of these – 241 to be precise – waiting in excess of 13 weeks. Of these, 49 were under the age of 17.

In all, 2,674 patients were actively waiting to access the mental health services which they required on that last day in March.

The Minister, in bringing the information, did so with a caveat that the figures were taken from “live administrative systems and are therefore subject to change”.

The Southern Trust says it is working to address the issue of waiting lists.

A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust told Armagh I : “We very much regret that waiting times for some services are longer than what we would want for our service users.

“Like many other specialties across health and social care the pandemic has had an impact on mental health services.

“As we carefully rebuild our services we are prioritising those in greatest need and will continue to work to address the ongoing waiting list issues.”

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