Action needed on psychiatric wait times say psychiatrists

Action needed on psychiatric wait times say psychiatrists

—Ottawa, ON, June 3, 2014—

The Canadian Psychiatric Association is disappointed that the Wait Time Alliance Report released today highlights that, for the sixth consecutive year, no progress has been made in publicly releasing wait times for psychiatric care.

“This is unacceptable given the unmet need among people with mental illness and the priority that has been placed on access to mental health services,” said Dr. Suzane Renaud, CPA Past-President.

Almost a third of Canadians who seek mental health care report that their needs are unmet or only partially met. The rate is even higher for children and youth. In Ontario, 60 per cent of family physicians rank access to psychiatrists as fair to poor.

A few regions across Canada have some objective measures to track access to psychiatric care but more needs to be done to link available datasets and develop a common set of indicators to capture how long Canadians are waiting for access to psychiatric services. “It would facilitate a ‘race to the top’ where provinces and territories could learn from one another and measure their success through directly comparable indicators,” explains Dr. Renaud.

The CPA would like to play a constructive role in accelerating the development, implementation and evaluation of innovative delivery models to improve access and health outcomes. For example, over the last 20 years the Hamilton Family Health Team has successfully integrated psychiatrists and mental health counselors into the offices—an initiative that has grown to include 150 family physicians. This has been found to substantially increase the number of people referred for mental health assessments, reduce waiting times and lead to more efficient communication and coordination of care.

Although tracking wait times in health is a provincial responsibility, the federal government, through the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, has a role to play in developing a common approach to measuring access to care.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association would also like to see the federal government work closely with the provinces and territories to facilitate the identification and scale-up of proven service delivery innovations by creating a Mental Health Innovation Fund,” says Dr. Renaud.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada’s 4,500 psychiatrists and more than 600 psychiatric residents. Founded in 1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.