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‘Serious and deeply ingrained problems’ in children’s and adolescents’ mental health service

Health Select Committee reports on state of CAMHS

The House of Commons Health Select Committee has concluded that there are serious and deeply ingrained problems with the commissioning and provision of children's and adolescents' mental health services. These run through the whole system from prevention and early intervention through to inpatient services for the most vulnerable young people.

In its recently published report, the Committee says that there are major problems with access to inpatient mental health services, with children and young people's safety being compromised while they wait for a bed to become available. Often when beds are found they may be in distant parts of the country, making contact with family and friends difficult, and leading to longer stays.

In many areas early intervention services, which provide support to children and young people before mental health problems become entrenched and increase in severity, are being cut or are suffering from insecure or short term funding. The Committee welcomes the announcement of the DH/NHS England Taskforce and recommend that it should audit commissioning of early intervention services in local authorities, and report the best mechanisms to provide stable, long term funding for early intervention services.

While demand for mental health services for children and adolescents appears to be rising, many clinical commissioning groups report having frozen or cut their budgets. CCGs have the power to determine their own local priorities, but the Committee is concerned that insufficient priority is being given to children and young people's mental health.

The Committee is also particularly concerned about the wholly unacceptable practice of taking children and young people detained under s136 of the Mental Health Act to police cells, which still persists.

The Committee has recommended that NHS England and the Department of Health should monitor and increase spending levels on CAMHS until CAMHS services in all areas are meeting an acceptable standard.

The report and recommendations are here.