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Psychological Services

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

10. What the average waiting time was for access to primary care psychological services in the most recent period for which figures are available. (203368)

Information about average waiting times for access to primary care psychological services is not collected centrally, but we are investing significantly in improving access to psychological therapy over the next three years, with funding rising to £173 million in 2010-11, to train 3,600 therapists and to treat up to 900,000 people.

In June last year, when I raised this question with the previous Secretary of State, she was good enough to agree that waiting times were far too long. For many of my constituents, the waiting time for such vital services is still 16 months or longer. Does the Minister agree that such a wait can allow conditions that would otherwise have been treated to get worse, and will he take urgent steps to deal with the issue?

The history of this country’s approach to access to mental health services in primary care is not a happy one, but I am proud of the fact that we are the first Government since the national health service was created to say that people in every community should have universal access to psychological therapy according to clinical need. The health service must concern itself as much with mental well-being as with physical well-being. Over the next three years, we will be investing an unprecedented amount in access to psychological services, which is every bit as important as the extension of GP hours and conventional primary care. We can be proud of the fact that we are the first Government since the creation of the health service to ensure that people have access to universal psychological services, recognising that mental well-being is every bit as important as people’s physical health.