Whanganui DHB achieves top spot for shortest mental health service wait time


5 June 2018

A three-year effort by Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) to reduce wait times for young people accessing its Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Addiction Services (ICAMHAS) has paid off.

Between 2015 and 2018, Whanganui DHB has moved from being the worst performing DHB in the country for the three-week wait times to the best performing of the 20 DHBs.

In 2011/12 only 25 percent of young people accessing ICAMHAS were seen within three weeks, in 2012/13 that number rose to 29 percent and in 2013/14 it dropped again to 23 percent.

The improvement’s been led by ICAMHAS clinical nurse manager Janice Bowers and ICAMHAS clinical coordinator Liz Turner who, in early 2015, made a commitment to New Zealand’s director and chief advisor of Mental Health Dr John Crawshaw that they would not allow the WDHB to remain the worst performing DHB for three-week wait times.

“We began by looking at our referral system and accepting most referrals with the view that if we see the young person/family, we can give an informed decision about whether our service can help or whether we should navigate them to a service which is better suited,” Ms Bowers says.

By streamlining the referral process, appointments for a time within the following three weeks are usually sent the same day a referral is accepted.

Monthly audits of all referrals allow the ICAMHAS team to determine if and why any patients missed being seen within three weeks.

“I’m pleased to report that most months our team exceed the three-week target and over the past nine months we’ve only missed the target by 1 percent for one month in those nine,” Ms Bowers says. “It’s been very much a team effort getting to this point – a team effort that’s working well.”