More investment needed' as 4,300 Cambridgeshire children are referred for mental health care in a year
Mental health trust and NSPCC say there is growing demand for services
The number of under-18s referred for specialist mental health trust services in Cambridgeshire rose in 2016-17 to 4,372.
Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show this was up 8 per cent from 4,052 in 2015-16.
Over the two years, more than 2,800 of these children referred for mental health treatment to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust were deemed to have mild or moderate needs and were passed on to other services for treatment - 1,370 of them last year, down slightly from 1,439 the year before.
The NSPCC called on the government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention, to ensure they do not have to reach crisis point before they are able to get help.
The findings come after the children’s charity revealed that its Childline service delivered a record number of counselling sessions to children reporting suicidal feelings in 2016-17.
The NSPCC said mental and emotional health is now the most common reason for a child to contact Childline, with the service carrying out 63,622 counselling sessions last year.
Figures on waiting times for referrals to mental health services also revealed a postcode lottery.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough had the worst record in the country in 2015-16, with young people having an average wait of 101 days, compared to the national norm of 45.7.
The local record improved significantly last year to 55 days, but this was still well above the national average of 39.7.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is desperately sad to see so many young people facing distress around mental health issues being forced to wait months for assessment, many of whom are then rejected for treatment altogether. This risks leaving them in limbo while their condition potentially reaches crisis point.
“We recognise the hard work of mental health professionals in trying to help young people get their lives back on track. However, too many children who need help are struggling to access support and treatment which can help them recover. The Government’s upcoming Green Paper on mental health must urgently evaluate the early support systems available to young people to ensure that no child is left to suffer in silence.”
Dr Venkat Reddy, clinical director for children, young people and families at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The figures do not tell the full story about the work of our children and young people’s mental health teams or the work that is going on.
“CPFT provides specialist mental health services for children and young people whose needs are classified as ‘moderate to severe’.”
But he said it would be wrong to suggest CPFT turns away or denies help to children whose needs are ‘mild to moderate’.
“Instead, following their triage or assessment, we work very hard to ensure those children and their families are helped to access other organisations in the local area – commissioned by the NHS – to provide them with the right services to meet their needs,” he said. “At CPFT we continue to work with our commissioners, partner organisations, young people and families to reduce waiting times. We have received some additional investment and have made good progress but the demand for emotional health and mental health services for children and young people continues to increase.”
He called for more investment to “drive down waiting lists” and help recruit further experienced staff, adding: “Despite the pressures faced by our frontline staff every day, they are dedicated to providing the very best care for every child and family needing our support, and to developing innovative approaches to provide the best support they can within the resources available to us.”
Nationwide, from a total of 652,023 cases referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), 109,613 children are known to have been turned away, although the real figure could be higher as one in five trusts that responded did not disclose the number of rejected referrals.
Research shows half of mental health conditions first develop before the age of 15, with three in four cases present by the age of 18.