Mental health services for children ‘increasingly overstretched’ new survey reveals

Demand for treatment for children’s mental health has increased and waiting times have got worse, a survey of trusts has shown. Mental health services for children are under growing pressure and increasingly overstretched, despite significant support and investment, a new survey has found. All of the mental health trust leaders surveyed by NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said demand for treatment had increased in the last six months, while 84 per cent said waiting times have got worse. In particular, a large majority said they could not meet demand for child and adolescent community and inpatient care. 

The top three reasons why pressures are increasing noted by trust leaders were children’s symptoms becoming more severe and complex, meaning they take longer to address, additional demand due to the pandemic, and lack of suitable social care provision.

Trust leaders also reported worrying staff and bed shortages, and concerns over workforce stress and burnout.

Key survey findings included:

  • 100 per cent of mental health trust leaders said that the demand their trust/local systems is experiencing for CYP services is significantly (80 per cent) or moderately (20 per cent) increasing compared to six months ago.
  • Two thirds of trusts leaders said they are not able to meet demand for community CAMHS (66 per cent) and inpatient CAMHS services (65 per cent).
  • 84 per cent of trust leaders said the amount of time children and young people are currently having to wait to access treatment for services is significantly (25 per cent) or moderately (59 per cent) increasing compared to waiting times six months ago.

‘Time of reckoning’

Commenting on the figures ahead of her evidence session at the health and social care select committee on children and young people’s mental health, (25 May) the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

‘Covid-19 has clearly had a big impact on children’s lives and their mental health. As the NHS focuses on recovery from the pandemic, we must recognise the extent of its impact on mental health services and ensure they also get the focus and attention they need. Despite welcome support and improved funding for some mental health services over recent years, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the impact of rising demand and chronic underinvestment in beds, workforce and capital. We are now into a time of reckoning.’

Source Early Years Educator

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