Care and support of children and young people with depression must be improved, the National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE) has said.
Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression, including over 8,000 children under 10 years old.
A new quality standard released by NICE aims to improve the diagnosis and management of those ages 5-18 with the condition.
Prompt access to services is “essential” if children and young people are to receive timely treatment, the quality standard states.
Age-appropriate information is also needed so that the patient can participate in shared decision making.
And arrangements should be in place so that severe depression and high risk of suicide in young people is classified as an emergency, with a maximum of 24 hours until they are referred to a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Healthcare professionals referring to CAMHS should ensure they assess the need for a safe place at the point of referral to help prevent injury or worsening of symptoms.
NICE director of health and social care Professor Gillian Leng said: “Depression in children and young people is more common than people might think and can be particularly distressing, both for the child or young person affected and their family.
“It is important there are clear steps in place to aid healthcare professionals involved in treating children and young people with depression, so that they can deliver the very best levels of care across the NHS.”
Nurse consultant Dr Gemma Trainor, a member of the specialist committee which developed the quality standard said: “I have over 30 years of direct clinical experience of children and young people presenting with symptoms of depression. In that time, there have been many changes and trends; over the past ten years, the increase of primary school-age children presenting with depression is a particularly worrying phenomena.
“I was very pleased to have been involved in the development of these quality standards and feel they will help ensure a timely and consistent response, providing children, young people and their families / carers with high quality, effective and safer services across the system.”