Fears that reduction in NHS counsellors could lead to increase in waiting times

PUBLISHED: 10:47 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:51 21 December 2017

Generic counselling stock picture. Photo: Archant

Generic counselling stock picture. Photo: Archant

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has warned that waiting times for mental health patients could "increase considerably" after three NHS counsellors were made redundant.

Norman Lamb MP. Picture : ANTONY KELLYNorman Lamb MP. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Three out of the five NHS-provided counsellors covering the area from Wells to Acle have been served redundancy notices as part of an attempt to make the provision of counselling more effective.

Mr Lamb said: “I am extremely concerned at this and it appears as if there has been no public information about this apparent reduction in service. “My fear is that waiting times will increase considerably. Why has there been no announcement of this cut?”

According to an internal source, GPs and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) commissioners in the area were originally involved in designing the service to include additional counselling provision.

Instead, the Wellbeing Service has made three out of five MIND-employed counsellors in the region redundant.

The internal source said: “At a time when the service has publicised its £1.5m funding for employment support, albeit DWP funding, the loss of some counselling function seems to be kept an internal affair. No one will know about it until the counsellors disappear from the surgeries and counselling becomes difficult to access.”

Andy Mack, NSFT wellbeing service manager, said: “This joint decision with Mind, our partners in the Wellbeing service, will ensure mental health provision is more suited to the service we are contracted to deliver and the needs of the people we serve.

“In consultation with the CCG, it was agreed that Mind – Norwich and Central Norfolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, and West Norfolk – would replace 10 of the 24 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) counsellors it employs across Norfolk and Waveney with 11 WTE Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWP).

“PWPs are specially trained in delivering CBT for depression and anxiety, which is an area of mental health in Norfolk and Waveney that deserves more focus.

“Consequently, there will be no loss of clinical resource. In fact, we are currently recruiting 23 PWPs in total – the extra 12 being made possible by a combination of additional funding under a separate arrangement and recruitment to vacant positions.”

A CCG spokesman said: “The CCG has received a copy of the letter sent to NSFT and are working closely with them.”

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