NEWS

Mental Health Specialist Support Denied To Almost A Quarter Of Young People And Children

'This research confirms the true extent of problems in children and young people’s mental health services.'

11/04/2016 00:01

Almost a quarter of all children and young people referred for specialist mental health support are being turned away, a shocking new report has revealed.

CentreForum found that, as well as 23% of those seeking help being turned away, some were enduring times as long as two and a half years for access to support.

Instead of prioritising early intervention, many patients were told that their conditions were not acute enough and were turned away.

Around one in 10 young people aged between 5 and 16 have a mental health problem- that’s the equivalent of three in every classroom.

The report, which aims to give a 'state of the nation' picture of mental health services for young people, also revealed the shocking way people with serious conditions are treated.

  • 1 Nearly a quarter of children and young people turned away by providers
    © Naufal MQ via Getty Images
    Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are turning away nearly a quarter (23%) of all children and young people referred to them for help by parents, GPs, teachers and others.

    This was often because their condition was not deemed serious enough or suitable for specialist mental health treatment.
  • 2 You might not be able to access specialist support if your BMI isn’t low enough
    Donald Iain Smith via Getty Images
    CentreForum noted that in some cases, support for anorexia was denied unless a young person was under a certain BMI threshold.
  • 3 You might not be able to get specialist support if you’re hearing voices
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    Criteria in one area suggested those “hearing voices in the context of mild anxiety, low self-esteem or low mood” should see their GP or voluntary sector counselling service and only be referred to CAMHS if they “heard voices that command particular behaviours”.
  • 4 You might not be able to access specialist support if you've only expressed suicidal thoughts once
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    CentreForum found one CAMHS would refer people to more generic support unless they had “enduring suicidal ideation” (i.e. they had felt they wanted to commit suicide on more than one occasion).
  • 5 You might not be able to get specialist support if your condition hasn't reached a high level of severity
    Arvydas Kniuk?ta via Getty Images
    In some areas, referrals were not accepted unless the young person's condition was “having a major impact on the child’s life such as an inability to attend school or involving a major breakdown in family relationships”.
  • 6 Maximum waiting times for services have more than doubled in the last two years
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    CentreForum's analysis of NHS Benchmarking data found that the average of the maximum waiting times for all providers has more than doubled since 2011/12.
  • 7 Maximum and average waiting times vary greatly
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    Respondents reported maximum waiting times ranging from four weeks to over two and a half years. The average of these longest waiting times for each service was nearly 10 months for treatment to begin.

    Average waiting times for different providers also varied widely, from two weeks in Cheshire to 19 weeks in North Staffordshire. The average waiting time in Gateshead is five times as long as for those in nearby Tyneside. Similarly, waits in London vary widely from two months in Kensington and Chelsea to nearly six months in neighbouring Brent.
  • 8 There were also 'hidden waits' concealed in average waiting times
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    CentreForum has uncovered that the median of the maximum waiting times for all providers was 26 weeks (6 months) for a first appointment and nearly ten months (42 weeks) for the start of treatment.

    Some providers did not even measure waiting times at all, meaning that some patients could even be waiting longer than this.
  • 9 Where you live can affect how much is spent on your treatment
    Sverrir Thorolfsson Iceland via Getty Images
    CentreForum’s analysis of regional expenditure on mental health also revealed a North/South divide, with northern regions spending more on services while capacity problems exist in the South.

Commission chair and former mental health minister Norman Lamb MP commented: “This research confirms the true extent of problems in children and young people’s mental health services.

"Far too often our children are turned away from help or forced to wait for months for treatment. This goes against what we all know - intervening early can prevent a condition reaching crisis point.

"This is a scandal which has existed for too long. It is unacceptable. If we are to finally achieve equality between physical and mental health, as the government has argued for, these shortcomings must be addressed urgently."

CentreForum executive chairman David Laws said: “This new analysis reveals a stark picture of the pressures on child and adolescent mental health services.

"Early intervention with young people is essential to prevent mental health problems getting worse. Over the coming year, CentreForum will be expanding its research into the challenges facing mental health services. It’s vital we improve our understanding of the current system, which suffers from a paucity of clear data, and assess whether progress has been made in transforming services."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We are delivering on our commitments on young people's mental health. The full £1.4billion will be made available as promised over the next five years, funding the biggest transformation the sector has ever seen, with every local area in the country revolutionising their services. This includes £28million to continue the roll out of talking therapies for children, to expand capacity and help more children get the help they need before they get to a crisis point.”

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