Officials 'lacking urgency' over mental health counselling in Northern Ireland
Mental health campaigners have said officials in Northern Ireland do not share their urgency over funding for counselling.
A group representing 40 groups and individuals met with Dr Sloan Harper and his colleagues from the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) yesterday to demand greater funding for counselling in GP services.
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Participation & Practice of Rights (PPR) and the #123GP campaign said the existing spending of around £2.29 per patient means services are "lamentably underfunded".
The joint call to boost counselling services at GP practices is backed by over 40 GPs, counsellors and mental health charities, as well as over 2,000 individuals.
Among those attending was Christine Rocks who lost her daughter Samantha to suicide 12 years ago.
A statement from the group said: "Regrettably, the families left the meeting feeling that the scale of the crisis facing our communities is not recognised and that their urgency and commitment was not reciprocated."
The HSCB told the group they had committed to providing a formal response to the #123GP campaign proposal within two weeks. The group's statement added: "We continue to be hopeful that the Board will review the evidence and case for increased funding for GP practice-based counselling and respond accordingly."
Questions put to officials included why GP waiting lists for counselling were between three to six months and longer when evidence suggests it is often lower cost and more effective than medication.
Described as a "Cinderella Service", the campaigners said counselling needed to be put on a proper footing so GPs and patients could have confidence it was effective.