A Fife adult has been forced to wait nearly two years to begin mental health treatment.
The 651-day wait is stark proof a change in how the issue is tackled is required, according to North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader was stunned by the response given by NHS Fife following a Freedom of Information request after questioning the health board about the longest wait endured by any adult who started treatment for psychological therapies in the region after a referral.
NHS Fife said it could not provide figures for the last three years despite recording them, citing the lengthy search, preparation and retrieval work involved, but Mr Rennie is concerned Fife’s current figure is the worst in Scotland – ahead of Grampian’s figure of 603 days.
“These findings are shocking,” he told The Courier.
“There’s no way a serious physical health condition will be left untreated for over a year like this Fife patient waiting 651 days.
“Sadly, this picture from NHS Fife is echoed across Scotland and only goes to demonstrate that mental health is still seen as less important when compared to more visible conditions.
“We know how powerful psychological therapies can be to assist people who are recovering, as well as benefitting those around them.
“But early intervention is key and there’s just more damage done, and more to treat, if patients are in limbo on waiting lists for months on end.”
In response to his concerns, Julie Paterson, divisional manager with Fife health and social care partnership, said it was taking action to address the situation.
“With additional resource in place and service redesign progressing, Fife’s health and social care partnership is continuing to develop early intervention and self referral to some of the low intensity psychological therapies and is providing a responsive service to those with less complex needs,” she commented.
“This aims to ensure that specialist services have greater capacity to meet the needs of those who require this intervention.
“Whilst demand for psychological therapies continues to grow, Fife’s health and social care partnership remains committed to working creatively through service redesign to ensure a responsive service based on individual needs.”