SDLP health spokesperson Mark H. Durkan has said that the revelation that no local health authority is meeting its 13-week target for treatment of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression shows a critical need for more staff.
Mr Durkan said a cycle of crises in waiting times points to the urgent need for a detailed plan on health service change.
“This is a burden that no one should have to shoulder alone,” he said.
“But it is an indictment of us all that when someone finds the courage to ask for help that they could be turned away for months on end.
“The deleterious nature of mental health problems means that those months could be critical to saving a life and saving a family from untold pain.”
Mr Durkan said it is not about partisan point-scoring.
“This is not political. It’s much too serious for that.
“This is personal to every family that has lost a loved one and to every individual struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental health difficulty.
“The Health and Social Care Board say they need an extra 160 staff.
“That isn’t a wish list request, it’s a critical and demonstrable need.”
The SDLP spokesperson added: “Failure to meet that threshold will fail countless people in need. It simply isn’t an option.”