‘It is deeply troubling’ - Number of mental health patients in Norfolk and Suffolk waiting longer than national standard rises by nearly 200pc

Mental Health. Pictured: A doctor and couple discuss depression. Picture: Time to change/Newscast O

Mental Health. Pictured: A doctor and couple discuss depression. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online - Credit: Time to change/Newscast Online

Campaigners say they are 'deeply troubled' after it emerged the number of mental health patients waiting longer than national standards for treatment has risen by nearly 200pc.

Under the NHS constitution patients should be treated within 18 weeks of referral but new figures reveal 280 patients waited longer at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust between April 2015 and March 2016.

Michael Scott, chief executive of the trust, said there had been an increase of thousands of referrals and that the rise in funding 'has not been on par', while mental health campaigners warned patients could die while waiting for treatment.

The trust has been in special measures for 18 months after being rated as 'inadequate' by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

In 2012/13 there were 99 patients waiting longer than 18 weeks, and in 2013/14 and 2014/15 that number sank to 72 and 78 respectively.

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But in 2015/16 the number of patients shot up to 280 - an increase of 182pc since 2012/13.

The figures do not include patients waiting to access treatment from the trust's child and adolescent mental health services.

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Mr Scott said: 'Figures in 2015 showed that we had seen an increase of more than 10,000 referrals into our services over the previous five years - a 30pc increase.

'Increased funding has not been on a par with that, and so services have not been able to expand fast enough to cope with the increased demand.

'One of our key priorities is making sure our service users can access the care they need as quickly as possible so it has the greatest impact on their recovery.'

A spokesman for campaign group Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: 'The increase in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment is deeply troubling. Waiting is not merely inconvenient, it is dangerous. People die while awaiting treatment. With increased waiting times it is hardly surprising that the number of unexpected deaths has increased so dramatically at NSFT.'

Last month the CQC revisited NSFT and carried out a full inspection. If its report finds enough improvements have been made then NSFT could be lifted out of special measures. Have you waited a long time for mental health treatment? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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