Just three in 10 children and young people with a mental health condition received NHS treatment between 2017 and 2018, according to a damning report by the Public Accounts Committee.
Most young people struggling with their mental health don’t get the treatment they need, and under current NHS plans this will still be true for years to come, the report said.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for holding the government to account for its use of taxpayers’ money, slammed the lack of progress saying children and young people with mental health conditions are being “failed” by the NHS.
The NHS long-term plan, published this month, has a particular emphasis on helping children and young people get the support and treatment they need. However action is clearly needed now, rather than in five to 10 years time.
The Public Accounts Committee said children and young people face “unacceptably long waits” for treatment – “this can be devastating for people’s life chances, their physical health, education and work prospects,” said Hillier.
It also slammed the government for having no “comprehensive, long-term plan” for how it will fulfil its commitment to implement ‘Future in Mind’, a 2015 promise of improvements to mental health services for young people.
“The NHS must accelerate efforts to ensure it has the right staff with the right skills in the right places,” Hillier added. “But there is a broader role for Government in better supporting children and young people.”
Recently published figures highlight the scale of the task – one in eight (12.8%) 5-19 year olds have a mental health disorder. There has also been a marked increase in the number of 5-15 year olds who suffer from an emotional disorder: the figure now stands at 5.8% in comparison to 3.9% in 2004.
The NHS long-term plan suggests funding for children and young people’s services will grow faster than the total mental health spending.
However staffing is a real issue. The number of mental health nurses is a roadblock to progress, the report said, and work to increase mental health staff numbers has progressed more slowly than planned.
“Effective action on prevention and early intervention can help young people more quickly, as well as relieve pressures on health services,” said Hillier.
“We will be keeping a close eye on the real-world impact of the measures proposed in the government’s 10-year plan for the NHS.”
For more information and support:
PAPYRUS: Children and parents can contact HOPELineUK for advice and support. It is confidential and you will not be judged. Call 0800 0684141, text 07786209697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Childline: Remind your child that Childline is there to give them free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.
YoungMinds: The parents helpline offers free, confidential online and telephone support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call 0808 8025544.