Quarter of million children denied mental health care

News about NHS children’s mental health services hit a new low point this month, with research by The House publication finding a quarter of a million children being denied help by the NHS in the last year.

The House research used FOI requests to NHS trusts across the UK and found that England has the worst data, with average community CAMHS waiting lists in February 2023 up by two-thirds in two years and children waiting on average 21 weeks for a first appointment. Across the UK waiting lists are up by 53% and the wait is 16 weeks, dropping to just three weeks in Wales.

The chances of under-18s seeing a professional was also found to vary across the country, often referred to as a postcode lottery. The House’s research shows spending per child is four times higher in some parts of the country than others, while average waits for a first appointment vary by trust from 10 days to three years.

The record of Sussex Partnership Trust NHS Foundation Trust was highlighted by The House. It is the second biggest in the country with more than 30,000 referrals in 2022 across three counties.

The trust turned away almost 12,000 young people in 2022 and had an average wait for a first appointment of more than 20 weeks. It met just 6% of its target of 80% of cases seen within four weeks last December in Hampshire and 16% in Sussex, compared to 62% of its similar target for adults.

For those turned away, parents either pay up to £100 an hour for private therapy, if they can find it, or struggle on without professional help. The result is families torn apart by the disruption and stress, children missing years of schooling, and life chances dramatically reduced, and in too many cases loss of life.

Full story in The Lowdown, 25 April 2023