Netherlands mental health patients face lengthy waiting lists

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People with mental health problems in the Netherlands now also face waiting lists at doctor's officers, according to an annual survey by the national association for general practitioners LHV. 52 percent of doctors indicated that they have waiting lists because they have no time to help mental health patients immediately, NOS reports.

This is the first time general practitioners are complaining about waiting lists for people with mental health problems. But waiting lists in mental health care are already somewhat of a norm. GP's have been responsible for treating people with basic mental health problems and referring those with more serious problems to a specialist for a few years.

The LHV did a survey among 1,400 general practitioners. The survey showed that 64 percent struggle with waiting lists in psychiatry. Referring a patient to a specialist often takes longer than eight weeks. 81 percent are forced to give treatment that should actually come from specialized professionals. And all the while new patients come in.

The GP's attribute the waiting lists to an increase in the number of people with mental health problems, combined with waiting lists at specialized institutions. "Caring for people in psychological distress is not getting better, but worse. The system is chronically not working", LVH director Geert-Jan van Loenen said, according to NOS.

According to national health organization GGZ, these waiting lists only lead to traumatic situations such as mandatory institutionalization, psychosis or even suicide. "Minister Schippers is still leaving the system entirely up to the market, while we see that it doesn't work. She really has to ensure proper regional agreements between insurance companies, municipalities and institutions", a spokesperson said to the broadcaster.

In reaction Minister Edith Schippers of Public Health stated that research by Dutch healthcare authority NZa shows that waiting times are still within the norms. But she too finds it too long. She is already working on fixing this problem, she said.

Schippers asked the NZa to check whether the set norms are still appropriate. Insurers have to submit plans to understanding and shorten waiting times for their policy holders next month. And involved parties will come together in the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, to take further steps in the fight against waiting lists before the summer recess.

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