Waiting times for young people's mental health treatment drop in Northumberland

Waiting times for mental health treatment for young people have dropped, with the average wait in Northumberland currently the best in the region.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 4:11 pm
Northumberland's waiting times have improved
Northumberland's waiting times have improved

The progress was revealed as part of a report on the 2019-20 quality account for Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), which provides the area’s mental-health services.

At the end of September 2018, there were 38 children and young people in the county waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment, rising to 45 by December 2018 and falling again to 15 in March 2019.

Since then, apart from one person at the end of December 2019, no children have been waiting longer than 18 weeks.

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Lisa Quinn, executive director of commissioning and quality assurance at CNTW, said: “The current position is that there are no young people waiting more than six weeks and the average wait for treatment for young people in Northumberland is now two weeks, which is the best we’ve got across our whole footprint.

“There’s been a lot of excellent work done, jointly with partners, to reduce the waiting times for young people in Northumberland.”

Improving waiting times was one of the trust’s four priorities for 2019-20, along with improving inpatient experience; equality, diversity and inclusion; and evaluating the impact of sickness on quality.

At the Tuesday, October 6, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee, Cllr Susan Dungworth said: “Congratulations for reducing the waiting times for young people, because that has been a massive issue for lots of families for a long time.”

In October 2019, we reported that the average waiting time was around 6.8 weeks, while at times before, some children were waiting up to 30 weeks, although the majority were seen within 18 weeks.

In response to a call for reassurance that the progress would be maintained, Ms Quinn said: “Your comments resonate with why we want to keep this as a priority, because it could easily slip, which is why we want to continue to monitor it and report on it publicly to make sure we don’t."

She added: “There are lots of lessons and lots of good practice we’ve learned from that process. Key things I would draw out are partnership working, working with primary care, understanding referrals, making sure people don’t get bounced between services, and being clear about the expectations with families.

“I have to say we’re not in that position across the whole of the trust, we’ve got very long waits in other localities, so we are learning from the progress we’ve made in Northumberland and trying to apply that across the patch.

“But we’re recognising that in all our localities, we are predicting a surge following Covid and particularly with young people going back to school and university, we are seeing referrals increase.”

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