Psychological therapy waiting times missed

10th March 2017

Many of us find that, when we are struggling with our mental health, it helps to talk to someone. And official health advice backs that up: people with depression should be offered a psychological therapy as well as, or instead of, antidepressants, depending on the severity of their condition.  

The Scottish Government has set a target that everyone referred for a psychological therapy should begin treatment within eighteen weeks. This target was due for delivery by December 2014, yet this week’s figures reveal that only two health boards* are meeting this target.

Waiting time statistics began in 2011 for psychological therapies and they are still not being met in 2017. 

The situation is worsening each quarter with fewer than  eight out of ten (77.5%) patients seen within 18 weeks, this  compares with 79.6% in the previous quarter and 83.5% for the quarter ending December 2015. 

A 2015 SAMH report on Talking it Out found that when people received a psychological therapy that it helped both at the time and later in life.  However, the longer people waited for treatment, the more likely it was that their mental health deteriorated while waiting. 

Billy Watson, Chief Executive of SAMH said:

“We know that psychological therapies can really help people in their recovery.

“It is unacceptable that the majority of Health Boards failed to meet the 18 week waiting time target. 

“In most areas of health, the target is just 12 weeks. That’s an unfair discrimination that SAMH wants to see ended.

“We would urge direction on investment to make sure people get the help they require as soon as they need it.”

In our Talking it Out report one person said: “It was a very difficult period in my life, and has become exacerbated through the waiting and unable to receive the correct help and the time I needed it most.”


*Data completeness for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Highland are below 50% due to IT system changes; no conclusions can be drawn from their data. Revised figures will be published on completion of IT changes, therefore, Scotland figures will change