Trust fails to explain huge underspend on mental health

A CASE of “post-code lottery” could be the reason why accessing mental health counselling is “nearly impossible” for people across Fermanagh. 
Sara Boyce from the PPR (participation and practice of rights) confirmed that only 70% of GP practices offer in-house counselling within the Western Trust area, with the percentage for Fermanagh even lower. Speaking to the Herald, Ms Boyce said, “The Western Trust needs to first of all work with GPs to make sure that every practice offers in-house counselling. 
The Trust should also ensure that nobody waits longer than 28 days for counselling and that people are offered a sufficient number of sessions, rather than being limited to six sessions as is the current practice.”
Ms Boyce believes that vulnerable people from rural and isolated areas like Fermanagh, are being deprived of the life-saving services that are available in other parts of the North. “Health services are just providing a quick-fix for people through medication, due to the outstanding numbers that are already on waiting lists,” she said. 
Despite the demand, figures released from the Western Trust showed that end of month targets for patients waiting on psychological therapy had not been met. 
At the end of November, there was still a total of 793 people waiting more than 13 weeks to be seen, with some patients having to wait over a 12 month period just to get an appointment. The Western Trust budget for 2019/20 jumped to £337,833 which was a significant increase of 42% since 2018/19, yet they had an underspend of £75,574 that year, with no explanation offered for this when asked by the Herald. 
Ms Boyce added, “There is no greater public health challenge than suicide. We know suicide is a preventable death, yet there seems to be little or no evaluation of services being undertaken by the Trust, with no improvements identified. 
“People are waiting far too long to be seen and for some people their nearest counselling provider is just too far away for them to access. Something must be done.” 

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