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Improving access to services for psychotic patients: does implementing a waiting time target make a difference

Kreutzberg, Anika; Jacobs, Rowena

Objective: In April 2015, the English National Health Service started implementing the first waiting time targets in mental health care. This study aims to investigate the effect of the 14-day waiting time target for early intervention in psychosis (EIP) services after the first six months of its implementation. Study design: We analyse a cohort of first-episode psychosis patients from the English administrative Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Dataset 2011 to 2015. We compare patients being treated by EIP services (treatment) with those receiving care from standard community mental health services (control). We combine non-parametric matching with a difference-in-difference approach to account for observed and unobserved group differences. We analyse the probability of waiting below target and look at different percentiles of the waiting time distribution. Results: EIP patients had an 11.6–18.4 percentage point higher chance of waiting below target post-policy compared to standard care patients. However, post-policy trends at different percentiles of the waiting time distribution were not different between groups. Conclusions: Mental health providers seem to respond to waiting time targets in a similar way as physical health providers. The increased proportion waiting below target did not, however, result in an overall improvement across the waiting time distribution.
Published in: The European Journal of Health Economics, 10.1007/s10198-020-01165-0, SpringerNature