NHS is failing children with mental health problems

MPs warn that too few young people with mental health problems are getting the support they need

Published on 11th January 2019

The NHS is failing children and young people with mental health problems, a committee of MPs has warned.

The Public Accounts Committee said that while the government has pledged to providing ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health services, it is still unclear what it means by this in practice.

As a result, only three in ten children and young people with a mental health condition received NHS-funded treatment in 2017-18, and many more faced unacceptably long waits for treatment.

Public Accounts Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP said: “Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS. Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment.

“This can be devastating for people’s life chances; their physical health, education and work prospects.

“The NHS must accelerate efforts to ensure it has the right staff with the right skills in the right places. But there is a broader role for government in better supporting children and young people," she warned.

Recently published figures show that one in eight (12.8%) 5-19 year olds have a mental health problem and there has also been a marked increase in the number of 5-15 year olds who suffer from an emotional disorder. The figure now stands at 5.8% in comparison to 3.9% in 2004.

Yet the government has no comprehensive, long-term plan for how it will fulfil its commitment to implement Future in Mind, which set out a cross-sector vision for how to support children and young people’s mental health, the committee's report stated.

There is now a welcome focus on improving NHS mental health services for children and young people, and wew and important ways of supporting young people’s mental health through prevention and early intervention, particularly in schools, are now being developed.

However, there are still significant gaps in the data to monitor progress. Work to increase mental health staff numbers and develop the right skills has also progressed more slowly than planned.

"The recurring issues with relation to the recruitment and retention of NHS staff remain unchanged and it is clear that the government’s inability to increase the number of mental health nurses is a roadblock to progress in this area," said the report.

It urges the government to make urgent headway on all these fronts if it is to provide the mental health services and support that young people need.

“Effective action on prevention and early intervention can help young people more quickly, as well as relieve pressures on health services.

“We will be keeping a close eye on the real-world impact of the measures proposed in the government’s 10-year plan for the NHS," concluded Ms Hillier.

Mental health services for children and young people

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