A time of reckoning for children and young people's mental health
25 May 2021
A survey by NHS Providers shows mental health services for children and young people are under growing pressure and increasingly overstretched, despite significant support and investment.
All of the mental health trust leaders surveyed said demand for treatment had increased in the last six months, while 84% said waiting times have got worse.
In particular, a large majority said they couldn't meet demand for eating disorder services, and for child and adolescent community and inpatient care.
Trust leaders noted the top three reasons why pressures are increasing:
- children's symptoms becoming more severe and complex, meaning they take longer to address
- additional demand due to the pandemic
- lack of suitable social care provision.
Trust leaders also reported worrying staff and bed shortages, and concerns over workforce stress and burnout.
Commenting on the figures ahead of her evidence session at the health and social care select committee on children and young people's mental health today, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:
"COVID-19 has clearly had a big impact on children's lives and their mental health.
As the NHS focuses on recovery from the pandemic, we must recognise the extent of its impact on mental health services and ensure they also get the focus and attention they need.Deputy Chief Executive
"As the NHS focuses on recovery from the pandemic, we must recognise the extent of its impact on mental health services and ensure they also get the focus and attention they need.
"Despite welcome support and improved funding for some mental health services over recent years, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the impact of rising demand and chronic underinvestment in beds, workforce and capital. We are now into a time of reckoning.
"Trusts are doing all they can to reduce waiting times, intervene as early as possible and to prevent mental ill health in the first place.
"These findings provide further powerful evidence that in addressing the NHS' backlog of care and the impact of COVID-19, mental health services – including those for children and young people – must be an absolute priority.
"It is vital that mental health trusts are supported to meet the demand they anticipate in the coming months for children and young people.
"They need adequate capital funding to ensure a safe therapeutic environment, workforce investment so we have enough staff with the right skills to treat children and young people, a commitment to expand services in the community to avoid inpatient admissions where possible, and a quick expansion in the bed base where it's needed to bring care closer to home. It is also important too that as the government considers its plans for social care reform, the needs of children and young people are not overlooked."