Tracking access to psychiatric care needed to chart a way forward say psychiatrists

Tracking access to psychiatric care needed to chart a way forward say psychiatrists

—Ottawa, ON, December 8, 2015—

Today’s Wait Time Alliance (WTA) Report is a stark reminder that for the seventh consecutive year no visible progress has been made in measuring how well the health system meets the psychiatric needs of Canadians. The report, which grades provincial and national progress in reducing medical wait times, draws a blank when it comes to access to care for major depression, first episode psychosis and mania. No province provides public, transparent and nationally comparable information in these areas.

As noted in last year’s WTA report, a few regions across Canada have some objective measures that track access to psychiatric care. More recently, the Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the first phase of a mental health indicators initiative. “This is important work but more is needed,” says Pamela Forsythe, Board Chair of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. “All levels of government need to work together to develop and implement a common set of indicators to measure if Canadians are accessing timely mental health care. Identifying blockages is an important step in finding the root cause for wait times and will allow us to develop, implement and evaluate solutions.”

Although psychiatric wait times are not systematically tracked in Canada, research points to significant unmet need. 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. Nationally, 55 per cent of family doctors rank access to psychiatrists as fair to poor.

“Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to negotiate a new Health Accord that includes mental health as a priority, and his plans for an integrated approach to mental health reform, is cause for optimism,” adds Dr. Forsythe. “The Canadian Psychiatric Association and its members look forward to lending their expertise to expand efforts to develop nationally comparable measures for access to mental health care.”

The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada’s 4,700 psychiatrists and more than 900 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.