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Child and adolescent mental health services in Wakefield have today been held up as a national example of good practice following a drive to dramatically cut waiting times and reduce inconvenience for patients.

The child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) teams in Wakefield and Pontefract are part of the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust. They have been commended for the way they have redesigned their patient booking system in the first annual review of the NHS National Booking Programme, published today.

Following the introduction of the new booking system in April 2002, the waiting list for referrals at the service has dropped from 34 weeks to 12 weeks and the number of patients not attending appointments has fallen from 34 per cent to 11 per cent.

The project, which has saved the NHS time and money and given patients a better service, is one of several schemes around the country, which are highlighted, in today’s national report.

The aim of the project was to offer greater choice to families as to when they attend appointments. This has been implemented successfully in the Wakefield and Pontefract area with over 250 families being given the opportunity to book a mutually agreeable time. Now all routine assessments, and many therapy appointments are negotiated with families. Previously, families were sent an appointment time.

Families are given a choice of dates and times which have been made available by clinicians for assessments. In a service such as CAMHS, this change has been particularly beneficial as there are often issues such as childcare, the school run, and missing important time off school to be considered.

The National Booking Programme’s annual review highlights the successes of the programme nationally, working towards full booking for every appointment by the end of 2005, as detailed in the Department of Health’s NHS Plan, published 2000.

National Booking Programme director Matthew Coats said: ‘In the modern NHS patients deserve to choose when is convenient for their hospital appointment, so that they can sort out childcare, work and other arrangements. Wakefield is showing how giving this choice not only improves the service to patients, it also reduces the time patients have to wait.’

Jenny King, project lead for the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust said, "Wakefield and Pontefract CAMHS, and the Booking Team are proud of their achievements. Mental health services are underrepresented in the programme nationally, and the success of this service has meant that we are now being targeted by other CAMHS teams wishing to learn from our experience.”


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