According to the BBC report: The ravaging pandemic has had a huge impact on the healthcare system in the UK and Northern Ireland is no exception. With resources and attention channeled to COVID-19, infection control measures and treatment of infected persons, a lot of non-COVID patients have suffered as their treatment has either been suspended or cancelled. Some have had their diagnostic tests delayed indefinitely, while others have seen their potentially lifesaving clinical trials stopped as a result of the pandemic.
Frontline doctors, nurses and support staff have been stretched even more than they already were in the pre-COVID era.
As the pandemic continued to ravage the country, almost all elective or routine surgery were stopped or cancelled. There were delays to many non-in-patient appointments and referrals even as screening and tests for several serious medical conditions were paused or cancelled.
The story is not different when it comes to mental health referrals from GPs in Northern Ireland. In the 12 months from February 2020 to January 2021, mental health referrals from GPs in Northern Ireland fell by 29%. In January 2021, the number or referrals across Northern Ireland was 1,455 less than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, non-inpatient referrals reduced in each of the five health trusts in the country, with the Southern seeing a 53% drop- the highest among the five. Belfast on the other hand at -16%, saw the lest decline in non-inpatient mental health referrals.
The Department of Health has however said the fall in GP referrals was an indication that people were no longer seeking help and not that they were not needing help.
According to the Health Minister Robin Swann’s speech in June, mental ill-health was one of the greatest challenges facing Northern Ireland. As a result, the Department of Health set out a 10-year strategic plan to improve mental health services in the country.
From the data compiled by BBC’s Shared Data Unit, mental health referrals fell sharply during the first Covid-19 lockdown, from 5,086 to 1,969 between February 2020 and April 2020.
Although numbers fluctuated throughout the pandemic, there were 3,631 non-in-patient mental health referrals in January 2021. This is represented in the table below.
Mental Health Referrals By Trust
A spokesperson of the Department of Health said that the pandemic and the restrictions to normal life associated with it has had a negative impact on the mental health of the population adding that, while referrals from GPs to secondary care decreased between February 2020 and January 2021, it is an indication of people not seeking help, rather than not needing help.
The spokesperson also added that mental health services are under a lot of pressure; people are waiting longer before seeking medical help which means that when they are attended to by mental health services, they often present more acute presentations which require more specialized medical care.
The trend according to the spokesperson is expected to continue going forward in addition to an increase in referrals. Projections from current modelling indicate that there will be up to a 32% increase in referrals to secondary care over the next three years compared to referral figures before the Covid-19 pandemic.
GP Negligence & Delays In Referrals, Diagnosis And Treatment
It is expected that when you visit your GP because of your health issue, you receive prompt and accurate medical attention. If you require expert medical attention, then your GP should make the appropriate referrals without delay.
A person’s mental health is very vital as is his physical health and should not be taken for granted. A GP should ensure that the patient gets the best possible medical care vital for their recovery.
Referral delays lead to a deterioration of the patient’s health because treatment continues to be delayed since the patient has not been able to see a specialist for proper medical attention and diagnosis. This can impede the patient’s recovery; the patient may require a more invasive treatment procedure or even have their life span shortened. In such cases, the victim can be entitled to make a claim for medical negligence.
Therefore, you may have a medical negligence claim if the delay in referral:
- Causes your mental health condition to become worse
- Causes you pain, suffering or other complications
- Leads to financial losses
- Reduced life expectancy
How We Can Help With Lack Of GP Referrals
Here at Medical Negligence Direct, we have specialist medical negligence solicitors who have years of experience dealing with mental health claims and various forms of medical negligence claims. Our solicitors are diligent, understanding and empathetic. We ensure that our clients get the best legal representation and support they require in their moment of difficulty.
Our consultation sessions are free of charge while we also undertake our medical negligence claims under a strict No Win No Fee Policy.
We therefore encourage you to contact us 0800 644 4240 today by filling out our online form to speak to one of our expert legal advisors and we will get back to you in no time.