The most severely mentally unwell wait longest for care, says report

By agency reporter
November 20, 2018

The more mentally unwell you are, the longer you wait for care, according to a new report by charity Rethink Mental Illness. People with lifelong, severe and complex conditions like schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder are waiting an average of 14 weeks for an assessment, leaving some feeling suicidal.

The report, entitled Right Treatment, Right Time was published on 19 November setting out the problem and the solution, according to those affected and professionals on ground.

In a survey Rethink Mental Illness carried out with 1,602 people with, or caring for someone with, a mental illness:

  • 28 per cent were not referred to an appropriate service by their GP
  • 56 per cent did not receive treatment in the appropriate time
  • 51 per cent found they did not receive treatment for a sufficient and appropriate length of time
  • 20 people said they had thought about suicide following inadequate treatment for their mental health conditions

Anne (not her real name) a carer who took part in the survey, said: “These answers are on behalf of my husband, who sadly took his own life six weeks ago. There was inadequate support and too long a wait for crucial therapy. He was originally under the home treatment team after a suicide attempt, then transferred to the mental health team after a few weeks. The level of care and support under this service was appalling, despite my husband constantly expressing suicidal thoughts. I truly believe that, if he had received talking therapy sooner, he would still be here.”

Kay (not her real name), said: “I’ve been in recovery since 2013 and I’m now tired and suicidal. I want counselling, someone to talk to without judgement, but I was told that counsellors don’t like to take on people with my diagnosis, which is borderline personality disorder. I’m struggling with rejection and loneliness as it is. This in itself makes me more suicidal and dead inside.”

Brian Dow, deputy CEO at Rethink Mental Illness said: “What we want is right treatment, right time but what we too often have is wrong treatment, too late. Thousands of people find themselves in desperate situations every year, but have to contend with long waits, bureaucracy, and a severe lack of choice about their care. The result is that far too many people reach crisis point before getting help.

“Our advice service is overwhelmed by phone calls from people with complex and severe mental illness who are struggling to access crucial NHS services. There has been lots of effort to improve things and the upcoming NHS England long-term plan is a golden opportunity to meet the challenge of 21st century mental healthcare.”

Ahead of the NHS long-term plan due to be published later this month, Rethink Mental Illness’ Right Treatment, Right Time report sets out a comprehensive set of recommendations that will help ensure those with severe and complex mental health needs get the care they need, including:

  • Access standards, for example everyone with psychosis should receive NICE-approved treatment.
  • Waiting times, for example everyone with psychosis should receive treatment within two weeks.
  • No time limit on care – people should receive treatment for as long as is necessary.
  • Expectations on choices about what treatment to receive, including therapies
    and social prescriptions

* If you are in distress and need to talk to somebody, you can call the Samaritans free at any time, from any phone on 116 123.

* Read Right treatment, right time here

* Rethink Mental Illness https://www.rethink.org/


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