123GP briefing to APPG on Suicide Prevention results in scrutiny of GP practice based counselling

The #123GP campaign prepared a briefing paper for members of the Assembly's All Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide Prevention in advance of their discussion  on 10 March 2020 with HSCB officials regarding the funding and oversight of GP practice based counselling ( known as NILES funded counselling).  This is in the context of its campaign for 1) a doubling of funding for counselling and 2) the introduction of a 28 day waiting time target. 

The paper provides a brief explanation as to what is meant by #123GP when it uses the term ‘counselling’, what the benefits of counselling are and the current access routes within primary care.

It also analyses the most recent data obtained by the campaign in relation to waiting times for counselling within primary care as well as data on the number of sessions offered. This data is for across the 5 Trusts. The data shows that access to GP practice based counselling continues to be a post-code lottery and that the oversight and accountability from the Health and Social Care Board continues to be entirely inadequate. 

In recent correspondence to the #123GP camapign the Minister for Health Mr. Robin Swann MLA suggested that for patients in those practices not accessing the NILES funded counselling, they could access counselling through the Primary Care Talking Therapy Hubs ( the Hubs). The data clearly shows that this is not the case in practice - there are lengthy waiting lists of 3 months or more for Hub counselling and patients are only offered 6 sessions on average. 

The paper highlights the gaps and inconsistencies in the information provided by the HSCB to the APPG and suggests areas where the HSCB now must provide information and clarification. 

You can access the briefing paper via this link