The number of children with mental health problems forced to spend long hours in A&E has soared under the Tory-led Government, new figures reveal.
The total number of cases of under-18s reporting to NHS Accident and Emergency units with 'psychiatric conditions' – and having to wait more than the Government’s target of four hours - has nearly trebled since David Cameron came to power in 2010.
The number was 769 in 2010/11, but has leapt to 2,197 in 2014/15- an increase of 185.7% - according to new Parliamentary answers by ministers.
The big jump was between 2013/14 and 2014/15, when the number of admissions waiting more than four hours increased from 1601 to 2197 cases – an increase of at least 37% in one year.
Labour claims that growing pressure on inpatient services follows cuts to early intervention and community based services for mental health.
A report by the Health Select Committee last year, following its official inquiry into children's mental health services, warned that “in many areas early intervention services are being cut or are suffering from insecure or short term funding”.
Critics claim that out of desperation, many children and young people are turning up to hospital emergency units – where they then have to wait long periods for treatment.
However, the longer waits in A&E may also point to the wider crisis in Accident and Emergency units over the past year in particular.
Shadow Mental Health Minister Luciana Berger
A written Parliamentary answer by Health Minister Alistair Burt revealed that provisional figures for the first six months of 2015/16 have a stubbornly high number of admissions waiting in A&E for more than four hours, with 237 cases in September last year.
The statistics, in answer to Parliamentary questions from Labour’s Shadow Mental Health minister Luciana Berger, were revealed as cross-party support mobilised behind the Duchess of Cambridge’s call for more focus on children’s mental health in Young Minds Matter, which saw her guest edit The Huffington Post UK on Wednesday.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan unveiled £1.5 million to provide new peer-to-peer support for youngsters with mental health issues.
Health minister Alistair Burt
But Labour says that the latest A&E figures add to a picture of growing numbers of children with mental health problems forced to turn to A&E for help.
Earlier this month, the party also revealed the number of children being placed on adult wards had increased by 10% this year.
Ms Berger told HuffPost UK: "It is bad enough that more children with mental health problems are being forced to turn to A&E to get help but for those children to be left waiting for hours and hours before they are seen is completely unacceptable.
“In the week when mental health is in the headlines, these figures are a sobering reminder of how badly children with mental health problems have been let down on this Government’s watch.
“The number of children self-harming has soared and without the right support early enough, more children are becoming so ill they need hospital care. While young people struggle without help, Ministers have admitted they won't spend what they promised for children’s mental health services this year."
She added: "These are some of the most vulnerable patients our NHS sees and they deserve more. Tory Ministers must turn their rhetoric into reality and deliver what they have pledged.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “It’s crucial children with mental illness get the right care in the right place – change is already underway to make that happen.
"We are investing £1.4 billion into young people’s mental health and are working with local areas to improve services so young people get better quality, preventative mental health care as quickly as possible.
"Alongside this we are investing £250 million to make sure every emergency department has trained mental health staff, meaning people of all ages get the support they need if they end up in A&E.”
More From Young Minds Matter:
The Government has admitted that it won’t spend the full amount on children’s mental health services that it promised for this year.
Some £250m a year was pledged in 2015/16 but ministers have admitted they will in fact spend £77m less than the amount earmarked, although David Cameron has announced a huge £1.4bn package overall.
HuffPost UK also revealed new research that showed children have to wait an average of ten years to get help after they first suffer mental health problems.
The research found that ignorance of mental health issues and the lack of support for children and parents are the main causes of the decade of delay.
The total cost to society of poor mental health in England is £105billion a year, the charity Centre for Mental Health (CMH) has found.