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Waiting times for primary care psychological therapy and counselling services

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Waiting times for primary care psychological therapy and counselling are an increasingly important area by which the effectiveness of service delivery is measured. Authorities and advisory bodies advocate a reduction in waiting times and improvements in waiting list management (Department of Health, 1999, 2001, 2004; Healthcare Commission, 2005a; Health and Social Care Advisory Service, 2002). Research and practice both report large variations and inconsistencies in service waiting times. This paper uses the CORE National Research Database for Primary Care Psychological Therapies and Counselling (valid?=?31882 clients) to develop benchmarks that services can use to measure their performance at a national level. Three time frames are analysed: Referral to first assessment, last assessment to first therapy, and referral to first therapy. The average waiting times were 8 weeks, 2 weeks, and 10 weeks respectively. The practical use of, and implications for these benchmarks within and between services and practitioners are explored by managers of primary care psychological therapy and counselling services. The discussion explores the significance of the benchmarks in relation to both political agendas and overall service performance. Initiatives to reduce waiting times and factors that may effect them are also discussed.
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Keywords: Waiting times; counselling; primary care; service quality management

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Psychological Therapies Research Centre, University of Leeds 2: Department of Psychological Services and Research, Dumfries and Galloway NHS 3: Psychology and Counselling Directorate, Counselling in Primary Care Services, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust

Publication date: 01 March 2006

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