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Children only admitted to mental health services after multiple attempts on own life

Children only admitted to mental health services after multiple attempts on own life

Young people and expert mental health staff say that they are unlikely to be admitted to in-patient care unless they have ‘attempted suicide multiple times’, a report from charity Look Ahead has found.

The report, commissioned by Look Ahead Care and Support, found that rising demand for the services combined with ‘limited capacity, staffing, and wait times’ combined to put serious barriers up for mental health services.

This comes as NHS data shows that one in four young people had a probable mental health disorder in 2022. Last year the overall number of mental health service users rose by 16% without a corresponding increase in staffing.

Today, in a report of the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health bill, MPs and peers highlighted the major pressures facing mental health services.

Speaking on the report, Saffron Cordery NHS Providers’ chief executive said that ‘Long-term, sustainable investment and support for the sector are needed to improve how and where people access high quality mental health care.

‘Mental health services are already overstretched, and proper resourcing and implementation of the proposed reforms will be crucial. In particular, focus is needed on delivering high-quality alternatives in the community to in-patient care and developing enough workforce capacity across the sector.’

Entitled ‘Away from the hospital and into the community’ the report found that A&E had become an ‘accidental hub’ for children and young people experiencing difficulties, and recommended the use of alternative community crisis services.

Almost all of the patients interviewed for the report said that they had poor access to crisis care services, with one patient even saying that it took several years to receive appropriate treatment.

One parent told the report’s authors: ‘It was very clear from what the doctor had written that he [the child] has suicidal intentions and was planning for it. It kind of felt that at that time CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) were only interested if he attempted it, which obviously we didn’t want him to do.’

Chris Hampson, chief executive of Look Ahead, said that the challenges in mental health provision for children was a ‘ticking timebomb’ for the NHS ‘as young people become vulnerable adults.’

‘The NHS is doing all it can in impossible circumstances, but the result is a service that both costs more than it should and helps too few of those in crisis,’ added Mr Hampton.

‘This research shows how much more needs to be done to redirect funds towards early intervention and prevention, in particular through intensive supported housing as an alternative to hospital. These are the community services that can help people before they reach crisis point.’

The report’s authors also made a series of recommendations focussing on the possibility of new innovations in services, and the development of residential  services.

Look Ahead’s recommendations

Create accommodation-based community services that are:
• Delivered by a collaboration of the NHS, supported housing and local authorities
• Funded jointly using new integrated care structures
• Located in a geography that works for the young people, their families and carers
• Sensitive to the age a young person would need to leave, ideally up to the age of 25.

Responding to the report, Gemma Byrne, policy and campaigns manager at mental health charity Mind, said: ‘Our mental health system is failing too many young people who are seeking help because the NHS doesn’t have the capacity to treat them.

The result is thousands of young people left without the support they need, impacting their education, relationships with family and friends and their futures. The UK Government faces a stark choice – invest in mental health services now or let down an entire generation.’


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