The long wait to access mental health services

After eight long weeks I have an appointment to see a member of the psychiatry team. Not a psychiatrist. I appreciate that I have an appointment and many are still waiting. On the other hand, I already know this appointment is not right for me. Even the very helpful community psychiatric nurse (CPN) who called me yesterday to inform me of the appointment (in two weeks time) admitted that the person I really need to see is a psychiatrist but services are so stretched that the CPNs are now the “gatekeepers” for services in my area.
I have nothing against CPNs, but right now, I don’t want a CPN. As my GP says, I need a diagnosis and a treatment plan- the person to deliver that is a psychiatrist. I have to jump through hoops to get to the person I really need. Whilst I’m willing to do this, I also feel guilty that I’m taking an appointment at the expense of someone else on the waiting list who would benefit from seeing a CPN.
Not only do I want to feel better (because lets face it, wishing you weren’t here anymore every day isn’t much fun) but I want (need) to function better. I’m sat here at home earning statutory sick pay, I’m burning through my savings just to pay for the essentials. I need to get back to work, I need to earn to support my family. The stress from worrying about how long I will be waiting to get a diagnosis and treatment plan and what I will do if (when) I run out of money makes my depression worse. It’s like spending weeks of your life in a waiting room.
The government has committed to addressing the historic funding inequalities in the mental health sector, my question is this: Where are we going to find the staff to deliver these services? A recent report by NHS Providers stated that less than a third were confident that workforce planning would deliver the numbers of clinical staff required to provide services. It doesn’t matter how much money you pump into the system if you can get the nursing and medical staff to deliver on the vision.
We need to push mental health funding to the forefront of health care. I’d even go as far to say that we need to put mental health above physical health in our focus. Two or three years of increased investment does not undo decades of historic under-funding. We see countless charity events in the mainstream media for physical health illnesses, look at the support leading cancer charities achieve. I don’t remember the last time I saw publicity for a mental health charity on prime-time TV advertisements. It’s time for change- are you with me?

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