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Children suffering from mental health are receiving inappropriate care

a mum speaking to her young son
a mum speaking to her young son Image credit: cdc.gov

A new report states children struggling with their mental health are waiting “far too long” to see specialists and are given “inappropriate care” on hospital wards.

The NHS child and adolescent health services (CAMHS) has been warned by the Health and Social Care Committee if urgent action is not taken the system risks “slipping backwards”.

Recent data compiled by the NHS suggests a growing number of children are finding it difficult to cope since the pandemic hit after being isolated from friends and temporary giving up hobbies.

One in six young people were suffering from their mental health in 2020 and 2021 compared to one in nine in 2017.

The report, compiled by the parliamentary committee, said: “This is placing a massive additional strain on already stretched children and young people’s mental health services.”

It went on address many children are being referred to wards long distances from their family home, referrals to specialist services were being “inappropriately rejected” and CAMHS waiting times “remain far too long”.

“It also remains the case that there are too many children and young people in inpatient units subject to inappropriate care: far from home, without adequate understanding of their rights, and subject to restrictive interventions,” the report said.

MPs commented the added concern of the Covid-19 pandemic and extra demand for CAMHS “means that the scale and speed of improvements planned by the NHS are simply not sufficient for the task at hand”.

It added “Significantly more ambition is needed and without urgent action there is a risk of provision slipping backwards.”

Julie McCulloch from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “The government’s underfunding of the education sector has reduced the capacity of schools and colleges to provide this form of support, and NHS services for young people who require specialist help are critically under-resourced leading to very long waiting times.”

The report highlighted how small problems “too often escalate to the point of crisis” because children have to wait for their appointments and the high demand for mental health services.

Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the health and social care committee, said: “Partly because of the pandemic, we are seeing demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS services to breaking point.

“Whilst we recognise that capacity to provide such services is increasing, we are not convinced it is happening at a fast enough rate.”

He added: “There is a growing risk that elective and emergency care pressures will mean mental health services once again become the poor relation.”

For mental health support specialising in young people visit the Young Minds website.