West Coast DHB defends child mental health service

10:16 pm on 20 April 2021

The West Coast District Health Board says children in urgent need of mental health support are getting it, despite an overall increase in waiting times for the service.

Closeup of unrecognizable African man comforting woman during group therapy session with psychologist, copy space

Photo: 123RF

National Party's mental health spokesman Matt Doocey has accused the Government of failing in its promises to improve mental health services, and says children are waiting too long to see clinicians.

"Wait times have ballooned under Labour, which I only was able to discover after investigating individual DHB data sets. Children and adolescents are spending far too much time in a queue to see clinicians and get the help that they need," Doocey said.

The statistics show waiting times for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services on the coast went from eight days in 2016 to 24 days in 2019. The percentage increase was one of the highest in the country, although most district health boards reported increases.

In Taranaki, Nelson-Marlborough and Canterbury, children and young people were waiting more than 50 days for a mental health appointment.

West Coast District Health Board operations manager Phil Wheble said the waiting time was the period between the service receiving a referral and seeing a "client" face-to-face.

But all referrals were triaged immediately by a clinical team, and prioritised according to need and urgency, Wheble said.

"In some cases, we will speak to schools, GPs, parents, and family before we see the child.

"On face value, this reflects as longer response times in terms of wait time data, however, the triage and information gathering process is an essential component in determining the best care and treatment plan for our clients."

Any child needing urgent assessment was seen as soon as possible, often on the same day, Wheble said.

"We are working with other health services like the West Coast Primary Health Organisation to provide options for clients with less urgent or less severe problems."

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