Patients call for better mental health provision while GPs are sceptical that access will improve

Article date: 31 January 2013

  • Over half the population have had a mental health issue at some point in their lives
  • 85% fear that their mental health will deteriorate during long waits for therapy
  • 75% of GPs have to prescribe medication when they feel psychological therapies would be more effective
  • Less than a quarter of GPs believe that access to psychological therapies will improve

While the Government has pledged better access to mental health treatments by 2015, new research by Aviva reveals patients are still greatly concerned about the impact long waiting times for treatment could have on mental health conditions.

Four out of five people (85%) surveyed for Aviva’s Health of the Nation1 report are worried that any mental health illness they had would deteriorate if they have lengthy waits for talking therapies such as counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Nearly three-quarters (73%) also say they don’t think the Government and NHS are doing enough to tackle mental health problems.

The majority of patients (51%) feel that a period of 2-3 weeks is the maximum time they should wait for treatment following a referral for counselling or a psychological service, with 29% believing treatment should be accessible within a week.

Over half (52%) of those surveyed for the report said that they have suffered from a mental health condition (e.g. depression, stress, anxiety) at some point in their lives. Of these, 9% still feel unwell and 21% still suffer from their condition from time to time.  Three in five (58%) of those who sought help from their GP for a mental health related issue were prescribed drugs.

The report by the health insurance provider also highlights GPs’ experiences and concerns over mental health provision in their local area, with four in five GPs (84%) saying there are long2 waiting lists for talking therapies.

Half of GPs (50%) say their local Trust provides a poor service for patients with mental health issues, and 37% believe the service is poor for depression, the most common mental health condition cited by patients at 35%. Over two-thirds of GPs (68%) also feel they don’t get enough support regarding mental health issues.

GPs also express doubts that access to talking therapies such as CBT will improve over the next few years, with over a third of GPs (35%) saying they don’t think access will improve compared to just 23% who believe it will. This is despite the belief by over three-quarters of GPs (77%) that mental health issues will continue to be the single biggest issue they will treat over the next year.

Regional breakdown of GPs reporting long waiting times, use of drugs for mental health treatment as an alternative, increases in numbers of patients with mental health conditions:

GPs reporting long waiting times for talking therapies
GPs reporting they are prescribing medication when they believe talking therapies would be more effective
GPs reporting increased number of patients with mental health condition (non stress or anxiety)
Scotland
94%
West Midlands
93%
North East
71%
Wales
92%
Yorkshire & the Humber
92%
Wales
67%
South east
92%
Scotland
88%
West Midlands
64%
East Anglia
92%
North West
86%
South East
62%
North West
86%
Wales
83%
North West
59%
North East
86%
East Anglia
77%
London
57%
West Midlands
86%
South East
70%
Yorkshire & the Humber
50%
London
83%
London
65%
East Midlands
48%
Yorkshire & the Humber
75%
South West
63%
East Anglia
46%
East Midlands
71%
North East
57%
Scotland
44%
South West
68%
East Midlands
48%
South West
37%
UK average
84%
UK average
75%
UK average
55%

 

Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva, UK Health, said: “The Government’s commitment to providing quicker access to mental health treatments is extremely welcome, but with such significant and widespread access issues, this will take time to

achieve.  Clearly, patients with mental health illnesses need access to the right treatment as quickly as possible to minimise the decline of their health and the impact it has on their lives.

“Anyone with private medical insurance who is experiencing mental health issues should check whether it covers psychological treatments. Aviva’s individual and corporate private medical insurance provides all customers with out-patient cover for psychiatric treatments and a 24 hour stress counselling phone line for advice. In the last year, Aviva customers accessing treatments such as counselling and CBT on average started a treatment plan within a week of making a claim, which we believe is vital to the management of - and recovery from - mental health conditions.”

Aviva’s private medical insurance cover for individuals and businesses includes access to a 24 hour stress counselling helpline as well as enhanced psychiatric cover as standard.3 At the point of claim, Aviva customers have the support and advice of a dedicated expert clinical team, (including trained psychiatric nurses), to help them manage their claim and psychological treatment plan.

- Ends -


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact: Melissa Loughran: Aviva Press Office: 01904 452791: 07800 691947: Melissa.loughran@aviva.co.uk
                                                   
Notes to editors:

1.    Aviva’s Health of the Nation report surveyed 1,000 consumers and 200 GPs in October 2012.

2.    Mind’s campaign for psychological therapies reports that one in five patients with mental health conditions wait over 12 months to access psychological therapies and a third of people wait under six months. Rethink Mental Illness also reports that once a person has been referred for a particular therapy, the waiting times can be anything from 6 months to 2 years (Talking Therapies Factsheet August 2012)

3.    In recognition of the increased demand for psychological therapies, Aviva’s individual PMI (Healthier Solutions) cover has recently been enhanced to provide more out-patient cover for psychiatric treatment. Customers can now claim up to £2,000 of treatment for psychological treatments per year. Aviva’s large corporate PMI cover, Optimum, (for companies with over 250 employees), allows employers to choose the level of cover they provide for in-patient, day-patient and out-patient psychiatric cover. Aviva’s corporate cover for smaller businesses, Solutions, provides out-patient cover for psychiatric treatment up to a limit of £1,000 per policy year.

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