Psychiatrists agree—Federal leadership needed on wait times in health care, including mental health

Psychiatrists agree—Federal leadership needed on wait times in health care, including mental health

—Ottawa, ON, September 23, 2014—

The Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) agrees with Canadians that federal leadership is needed on wait times in health care. This is particularly true in mental health.

A new Nanos poll commissioned by the Wait Time Alliance (WTA) and released today found eight out of 10 Canadians (82.4%) believe the federal government should play a leading role in working to reduce medical wait times across the country.

Last June’s WTA Report noted that for the sixth consecutive year, no progress has been made in publicly releasing wait times for psychiatric care.

“There continues to be great unmet need among people with mental illness, despite the increased priority on mental health signaled by the development of provincial and national mental health strategies. Although it is not systematic ally tracked, we know that access to mental health services is a national problem that affects all Canadians.” says Dr. Suzane Renaud, CPA Past-President and co-spokesperson for the WTA.

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. The Nanos poll found that nine out of 10 (92.2%) Canadians believe Canadians should have access to the same level of health care regardless of where they live.

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 federal government also has a key role to play in developing and collecting comparable mental health expenditure data. Nine in 10 (91%) Canadians want to be able to compare healthcare expenditures and health outcomes by province and across Canada to understand how healthcare can be improved, found the Nanos poll.

“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 4,700 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.

/ Wait Time Alliance, WTA, WTA 2014