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Children’s mental health services in England: two new reports

Children’s Commissioner and NHS Digital publish analysis of CAMHS

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, has published new analysis by her office looking at the provision of children's mental health services in England. The research came ahead of the publication by NHS Digital of the first prevalence survey of children's mental health since 2004. For details of the NHS Digital survey, see below.

The Commissioner's briefing finds that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are improving in most areas in the country, yet with the exception of eating disorder services, the provision of services in the youth justice system and in perinatal mental health care, the rate of progress is slow. A vast gap remains between what is provided and what children need. As a result, the current rate of progress is still not good enough for the majority of children who require help but are not receiving it.

The main findings include: 

The report does show areas of progress. In the last two years the NHS has delivered 70 new community eating disorder services for children, with a waiting time standard of one week for urgent referrals and four weeks for routine. There have also been welcome improvements in mental health care support in the youth justice system and in perinatal mental health.

The Children's Commissioner's Office has also compared the performance of Clinical Commissioning Groups. Using a range of indicators, the research suggests Ealing CCG to be the worst performing area, closely followed by Hounslow, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow and Hillingdon. In Ealing, over half of the children referred to CAMHS are not admitted for treatment after first assessment and those who do receive retreatment wait on average nearly three months. Other areas with poorly performing CCGs include Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Bradford and Leicester. The top performing CCGs are South Tees; Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees; Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield; Darlington; and Thanet.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"I want to see the Government and NHS England dramatically increasing the level of ambition for children's mental health services. The NHS 10-year plan needs to set out a vision for children's mental health with clear targets and timetables. By 2023, the NHS should be in a position to ensure no child who needs help is turned away. There also needs to be a focus on early help. An NHS-funded counsellor in every school, providing a service that is accessible and child-friendly, would be transformative.

"All of this will require funding and leadership, but the prize is worth pursuing, and the NHS 10-year plan is the time to do it. We must not let this chance pass."

NHS Digital prevalence survey of children's mental health
NHS Digital has published its first national survey of children's mental health to take place since 2004 and intends to update key statistics on the prevalence of mental disorders in children and young people.

The current survey finds:

For the Children's Commissioner's report, click here. For the NHS Digital report, click here.