Patients with mild mental health problems could see shorter waits and faster treatment in public hospitals if successful trials of an integrated care model by a clinic in Kowloon West can be more widely implemented. The Common Mental Disorder Clinic at Kwai Chung Hospital was established in July to care for patients with less severe conditions who would normally wait to attend a specialist outpatient psychiatry clinic in the district. Non-urgent patients attend the new clinic where they are first assessed by a psychiatric nurse and then diagnosed by a psychiatrist. Depending on the patient's needs, this is then followed by four sessions of integrated care and counselling by a clinical psychologist, physiotherapist and other health care professionals. While it can take one to two years for patients to recover in conventional treatment clinics - which rely more on medication - the new clinic uses intensive psychological care to achieve results in months. The pilot scheme was set up to shorten the long queue for services at the Hospital Authority's specialist outpatient psychiatry service, for which patients deemed stable have to wait anywhere from 24 to 143 weeks to attend their first appointment, depending on the district. READ MORE: The sorry state of mental health care in Hong Kong Since the pilot began, waiting times in Kowloon West have been cut, from 68 weeks in June to 66 weeks in August. Patients from other districts can also seek treatment at the Kwai Chung trial clinic. "In the past there was only one doctor to care for a patient, now we have the whole team," said Dr Lee Wing-king, the hospital's consultant psychiatrist. The seven-member team at the clinic has treated around 500 patients so far, and aims to handle 2,000 new cases in the coming year. The target is just a small fraction of the estimated 20,000 people currently waiting to receive specialist psychiatric treatment in public hospitals. The service will be reviewed after operating for a year and is expected to be extended to other districts. Kowloon East, which has a larger demand for adult psychiatric treatment, is a possible next step. Dr George Chong Heung-chuen, a senior clinical psychologist at the hospital, said counselling and breathing exercises had helped a 27-year-old woman suffering from panic disorder overcome her fear of taking minibuses within two months. READ MORE: Severe shortage of Hong Kong psychiatrists 'means they have just minutes to decide if patient's condition is dangerous' "Now she can take a minibus from Tsz Wan Shan to Diamond Hill MTR station," Chong said. Social activities and hobbies have been used to help depressed patients, said Wong King-yeung, the hospital's advanced practice nurse in psychiatry. One of his patients, a 55-year-old woman with depression, was able to regain self-confidence under the medical team's guidance through activities including cooking and better organisation. "Mild mental health disorders are often related to pressure. If we teach [patients] how to handle pressure and soothe emotions, it would be helpful for them," said Lee. Dr Ivan Mak Wing-chit, a private psychiatrist, said psychological treatment with small doses of medication was also the course adopted by private doctors to treat patients with mild conditions. However, whether a patient recovered within months depended on whether the source of the pressure had been tackled, he said.