Failing MH services leading children to wait 18 months for treatment

Young people in England are waiting up to 18 months to receive help for their mental health problems, and are finding it increasingly difficult to access the services they need.

These are the findings of the first phase of a government commissioned review of children and young people’s mental health services, which has uncovered major issues in the sector.

Health and social care regulator the CQC found that while most specialist services provided good quality care, too many young people simply did not get care when they needed it the most.

The report stated that 39% of services had been rated as ‘requires improvement’ for responsiveness.

But more importantly, the CQC added that problems were compounded by the fact that those who worked with children and young people in schools, GPs, and A&E often did not have the skills or capacity to deal with the specific needs of children and young people.

The regulator went on to describe the system of services as “complicated and fractured”, due to a lack of joined up working between health and community care teams.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector for mental health said: “There are many people out there working to make sure that children and young people who experience mental health issues are offered caring support.

“Their dedication is to be celebrated. However, we must also address those times when a child or young person feels let down or not listened to and make sure the same level of support is available to each and every one of them.

“The commissioning of this review indicates that the government considers children and young people’s mental health to be a national priority.

“The complexity and fragmentation of the system is an obstacle that must be overcome if this new investment is to result in better services to meet the mental health needs of children and young people.”

And Claire Murdoch, mental health director for NHS England argued that it was “factually inarguable” that after years of underinvestment, NHS funding for young people's mental health services is now going up.

“This 15% increase far outstrips the overall rise in mental health spending, which itself is now rising far faster than the overall NHS budget,” she explained.

“Without a doubt, after years of drought, the NHS' mental health funding taps have now been turned on.

“It's going to take years of concerted practical effort to solve these service gaps - even with new money - given the time it inescapably takes to train the extra child psychiatrists, therapists and nurses required.”

LGA: mental health must be put on same footing as physical health

For councils, the report highlights the urgency with which the crisis tackling children and young people’s health needs to be dealt with.

The chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board Cllr Richard Watts stated: “At the moment we have a mental health system that still says no rather than yes to children when they ask for help with problems such as depression, anxiety, family issues and bereavement.

“Councils, which play a critical role in improving the lives of all residents, want the Government’s green paper on children’s mental health to deliver the root and branch reform it so desperately needs.

 “Mental health must be put on the same footing as physical health,” he continued. “Greater investment is needed in community-based preventive services, such as counselling in schools, which gives children and young people the support they need and keeps them out of hospital in the first place.

“We cannot continue with a system that is leaving thousands of children and families in distress, causing lifelong damage and preventing them from reaching their true potential.”

Back in May, MPs called for there to be a “whole school approach” to tackling mental health for children.

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