Concerns continue about CAMHS access

Despite a strong commitment from the Government to improve access to mental health services for children and young people, GPs and nurses are still concerned that many are not getting the treatment they need.

The GPs' magazine Pulse recently reported figures obtained from 15 mental health trusts, showing that 60% of referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) lead to no treatment, and a third are not even assessed. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has voted to lobby the Government to invest in a wider range of mental health support services, saying that many conditions are not covered by the CAMHS referral criteria. According to the Mental Health Foundation, about one in 10 children and young people have mental health problems. However, 70% don't get appropriate interventions early enough. With teenagers increasingly suffering a range of issues, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders, having access to the expertise of psychiatrists and mental health nurses is key. However, in many cases they are simply referred to school counsellors or charities, rather than specialist mental health professionals. In the Pulse article, Bristol GP Dr Karen Cox cited cases of children who self-harm, a child who was physically abusing his mother and a child with severe night terrors after the loss of his father, all of whom were advised to contact a charitable organisation, rather than being referred to CAMHS. Following on from the Future in Mind report, the Government has pledged £1.4 billion by 2020 to support improvements in children and young people's mental health. The recently published report Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, commits to a 'significant expansion in access to high-quality mental health care for children and young people', aiming for at least 70,000 additional referrals for evidence-based treatment each year by 2020/21. However, it seems that this promised additional funding may not yet be reaching the frontline in some parts of the country, creating a postcode lottery in CAMHS provision. A recent review by the Government's Children's Commissioner for England found that, while in some places as many as 75% of children referred to CAMHS received appropriate treatment via the NHS, in others the figure was as low as 28%. The Department of Health maintains that the extra funding will have an impact: "This investment is just beginning, so will be making an increasing difference in the years ahead – every area in the country has produced plans on how they are going to work together to make sure young people get support before they reach a crisis point." With over 700,000 5-16 year olds having a mental health problem and a 70% increase in rates of depression amongst teenagers over the last 25 years, achieving this goal is vital to protect the future emotional wellbeing of a huge section of society.

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