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"Serious issues" in young people's mental health services

Serious and “deeply ingrained” issues with children's and adolescents' mental health services (CAMHS) have been unveiled in a 'grim' report. 

The Health Select Committee, which scrutinises the government and health bodies on behalf of the public, found issues running through the whole system, from prevention and early intervention to inpatient services. 

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) report having frozen or cut budgets for young people's mental health services, despite rising demand. 

Early intervention services are also being cut in many areas, or are suffering from insecure or short-term funding, the committee found. 

And waiting times for community CAMHS services have increased, and are also having issues with maintaining service quality as a result of rising demand and a drop in funding. 

The report states that not all services have reported difficulties, but there is “unacceptable variation in the quality of services, with young people and their parents describing “battles” to get access to services. 

The Health Select Committee has called on the Department of Health to monitor and increase spending levels until services in all areas meet an acceptable standard. 

More information should be collected about the prevalence of young people's mental health problems, so that commissioners are able to provide services that meet local need, the committee said. 

Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health Select Committee said: “What we'd like to see is a focus on early intervention, alongside making sure that beds are available in the right place when necessary. We'd like to make sure that the fragmentation of commissioning arrangements is sorted out. 

“And we'd also like to make sure that when young people are in hospital they have access to good quality education. And finally, let's end the scandal of young people being taken to police cells when they have a mental health crisis.” 

Mental Health Foundation's chief executive, Jenny Edwards CBE said: “Whilst the Committee explicitly recognises examples of good practice in many parts of the country the overall picture makes grim reading.

Without understanding the true scale of need, and what it will cost to meet it, government will continue to be unable to implement the changes so urgently needed. 

“These changes will need to be implemented quickly, within the lifetime of the next Parliament. If these changes are not made we risk losing a generation of young people to mental health problems which are avoidable, had the proven evidence based treatments, been made available.”