Almost one in four children with mental health problems are being refused access to specialist support services after being referred by GP’s, according to a damning new report published by the Centre Forum think tank.
Research reveals that almost a quarter (23%) of children and teenagers referred by GP’s, teachers, and others are turned away for specialist mental health treatment, often due to high eligibility criteria for access to services.
Where young people are accepted, many are left waiting several months for treatment at a time when early intervention is critical to their long-tern mental health and well-being.
The average waiting time between referral and treatment starting is almost ten months, but Centre Forum say they noticed significant variations between providers. For example, average waiting time in Gateshead was five times longer than in Tyneside.
Waiting time differences were also found in London. Children living in the affluent boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea faced an average waiting time of two months, while those living in Brent had to wait an average six months.
Differences were also found in the amount different regions and areas spent on children’s mental health services. While demand for children’s mental health services was higher in the South and East of London, expenditure was higher in the North of London – where demand for services is lower.
Centre Forum says this may suggest potential capacity problems, citing an example where since April 2015 there has been 50 days when no beds were available in the whole of the South West region of London.
The think tank says they will be ‘watching closely’ to see if a Government pledge of additiinal funding over the next five years helps to improve services.
CentreForum executive chairman David Laws told Huffington Post UK: “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.”
Former Health Minister Norman Lamb said the research “confirms the true extent of problems in children and young people’s mental health services”.
He added: “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.”
A Department of Health spokesperson defended the Government’s record: “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.”