A Labour MP has revealed a shocking incident in which a suicidal 10-year-old boy was denied mental health help four times - because he hadn’t attempted suicide.
Dr Paul Williams told Parliament’s health committee that the parents of the child, identified only as T, had to wait more than a year before they were offered any kind of support for their son.
“There were 18 months between them first asking for support and getting anything,” the newly-elected MP said.
“CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] rejected T four times because he wasn’t suicidal - although he’d said he didn’t want to live any more and he didn’t want to wake up in the morning.
“But because he hadn’t attempted suicide - aged 10 - he didn’t hit their criteria for help.”
Care Quality Commission inspector Dr Paul Lelliot, giving evidence to the cross-party committee on child and adult mental health service provision, said many services were forced to come up with their own thresholds for treatment as they do not have adequate resources.
He said many units miss both their own applied targets for waiting times, as well as the NHS statutory 18-week target.
“What we hear from them is that it’s very often staffing levels that they take to be issue,” he added.
“We also find them managing very long waits by raising the threshhold for taking young people on. They will apply criteria and turn away referrals that don’t meet it.
“Of course, the risk is there might not be any other service [in the local areas] that can pick up that unmet need.”
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, told the committee she had experienced families “pouring through the door” to talk about mental health since taking on the role nearly three years ago.
She added that she was “shocked” when teenagers as young as 13 told her they knew they would have to actually attempt suicide before they received any help.
A recent report revealed more than 100,000 children have been denied mental health help in the last two years alone.
Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, said the situation was a result of government cuts to mental health services.
“The scandal of children being turned away from mental health treatment because they don’t meet thresholds of mental ill health is a direct cause of the Tory government’s failure to protect mental health budgets,” she told HuffPost UK.
“Even where children are able to access services, they can face unacceptably long delays; the CQC recently found some children waiting 18 months for treatment after referral.
“The Tory government must ring-fence mental health funding in the upcoming budget; anything less will prove that their pledges to make mental and physical health a priority are just empty words.”
The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.