New tactics set in tackling long waiting times for mental health treatment
State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Public Health remains optimistic that waiting lists for mental health care will soon be shortened to reach the agreed standard of a maximum of 14 weeks.
“Over the years, I have seen the cooperation between parties change and intensify. This was not without struggle but I now see really motivated parties who share a sense of urgency. I am delighted that there is now really a widely supported approach”, Blokhuis says in a letter to parliament.
Clear guidelines have been set to provide insight into the waiting time per care institution. In a joint action plan on a mutual referral system, mental health institutions with the longest waiting times are hereby required to consult with fellow regional healthcare providers and general practitioners on how to get their patients the help they need as soon as possible. In extreme cases, an institution will obtain a budget for a temporary capacity expenditure.
Additionally, starting this year, mental health centers are required to report along with the waiting time, the total number of patients, their diagnoses, and how long treatment will take.
Should waiting lists for certain institutions become unmanageable, a temporary registration break is now also possible. Centers will then not be able to place new patients with disorders for which they currently have no treatment capacity on the waiting list.
Lastly, in a move that Blokhuis has classed as “new and unprecedented”, parties can refer complex cases to the responsible minister themselves who can then make a binding decision on the suitable treatment location.
Despite three years of hard work, waiting lists to receive mental health treatment remain lengthy. A person suffering from anxiety has to wait 15 weeks on average before receiving treatment, for example. For ADHD the waiting time is 17 weeks, for personality disorders 20 weeks, and for pervasive disorders, such as autism, it can even take up to 21 weeks before a patient gets to see a professional. In certain regions, such as Kennemerland, it can even take nearly eleven months for a person with a pervasive disorder to see a doctor.
Blokhuis took over the goal to shorten the wait for mental health treatment from former health minister, Edith Schippers, in 2017.