Mental healthcare waiting lists reducing people’s chances to find a job
Extended waiting time for specialized mental health care can affect the job prospects of those with mental health issues. Cutting down these waiting lists might save the Cabinet hundreds of millions in annual benefits, while investing in the necessary improvements would cost significantly less, according to a study released on ESB, a Dutch platform for economists.
Annually, over 80,000 people wait for treatment in the mental health system. Data from Statistics Netherlands for 2012-2019 indicates that these patients wait an average of 15 weeks. Around 60 percent were employed before seeking help.
The study reveals that every additional month of waiting for treatment leads to 2 percent of these patients either losing their jobs or not resuming work. Their deteriorating health and increasing detachment from the workforce are possible explanations.
Roger Prudon, a PhD candidate at the Economics department of the Vrije Universiteit's specializing in retirement and disability policy, suggested that shortening the wait by a month could help retain these patients in the workforce, potentially saving over 300 million euros annually.
Considering the annual influx of 80,000 patients into the waiting system, reducing the waiting period by a month could prevent about 1,600 job losses. With the estimated annual cost for an unemployed person being 24,000 euros, the savings amount to over 300 million euros, according to Prudon.
“This benefits both the individual and society as a whole,” the study stated. However, this would need hiring approximately 100 additional psychologists and psychiatrists. This would lead to a labor cost of about 10 million euros, a cost way lower than the potential savings.
The article recommends reducing wait times by focusing more on prevention, augmenting treatment providers, regional collaboration, and optimizing the distribution of patients among various mental health care providers.
The article also noted that despite multiple governmental action plans targeting reduced mental health system wait times, the staff shortage gap is widening. The article observed an increase from 3,600 mental health job vacancies in 2018 to 7,100 in 2022.