"Long delays nationally for counselling"

About: Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust / Assertive outreach

(as the patient),

I suffer from recurrent Depression.

Last year, following a particular trauma, my condition became serious. I reached the point of thinking about harming myself. After an initial assessment with the CMHT, I was told that I would have to wait 30 weeks for treatment. When I finally did manage to access treatment, I had one session and then the next was cancelled. All this was being put down to staffing and underfunding.

By the time they were ready to proceed with a course of counselling, I had managed to turn my mindset around with a lot of time, patience and medication, and considering that they weren't even offering me any kind of diagnosis anyway, I felt like the whole experience had been a waste of time. I did not progress with the counselling.

Now my main point is, I was lucky. I was able to retain enough of a sense of self preservation (or perhaps was just too cowardly?) to prevent myself from taking my own life. Nevertheless, I had written my letters, planned my method, and would be lying if I said that suicide wasn't a very real option for me at that time.

So what of those who have sunk even deeper than me? That 30-week wait could seem like an eternity, and could genuinely be the difference between life and death.

Depression can be a life-threatening illness. It doesn't seem to me that it is treated as such? I feel that the NHS is not currently provided with a level of funding to help those people for whom suicide feels like the only option.

Following my experience I made an FOI request to some of the other care trusts elsewhere in the country, to find out whether this problem was localised to my area (far East Lincolnshire) or was universal. In London a 6-11 week wait was reported, in Hull 9-10 weeks, in Devon 20 weeks and in the East Riding of Yorkshire as long as 52 weeks.

I felt at the time that it was absolutely disgusting that people in need of care, in some cases in order to save their lives, were being abandoned for the best part of a year and effectively put into a live-or-die lottery.

In my opinion, our NHS doesn't seem to have much of a grip on mental health care at all.

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Response from Caroline Hainsworth, Service Liaison Manager, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to share your experience on Patient Opinion; your story of recovery is inspirational but at the same time demonstrates the difficulties for people with mental health problems.

I have asked our service lead for psychological therapies to see if there is any further information we can provide to address the concerns you have and will post something as soon as we can.

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Response from Caroline Hainsworth, Service Liaison Manager, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Our lead for Psychological Therapies has now been able to provide some further information in relation to your feedback on services provided by LPFT. She reiterates our thanks for you taking the time to share your experience with us as we welcome constructive feedback and has stated:-

We understand how distressing it can be, to seek help and then find that there is a waiting list for the relevant service. We too are concerned about waiting times and are continuing to work with the Commissioners of our Service to improve this. As you will appreciate, it can also be quite difficult to make direct comparisons of waiting times because they do vary according to the specific type of help or therapy that is required.

As you may be aware, our Psychological Therapies & Primary Care Service offers therapies for people with a wide range of psychological problems, from mild to complex and severe. The Team includes Psychologists, Dynamic Psychotherapists, Counsellors, CBT therapists, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Employment Advisors and also trainees within the different disciplines. We commonly see people with problems such as low mood, anxiety, low self-esteem, post traumatic stress, and experiences of abuse.

The breadth of the Team means that we are able to offer various types of psychological therapy, as appropriate, including CBT, EMDR and CAT. We can also offer a range of individual, group, assisted self-help and computerised therapies, most of which follow a Cognitive Behavioural approach. It is for this reason that initial contact with the Service is used to determine which type of help is most likely to be beneficial to the individual. Some types of help are available more quickly than others but our emphasis is upon what is most appropriate. We continue to work with the Commissioners to improve access to the Service and to address our shared concerns with waiting times.

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