Falling number of NHS child psychiatrists provokes ‘deep concern’

The number of NHS psychiatrists helping troubled children and young people in England is falling despite the growing demand for care, new official figures have shown.

The total number of psychiatrists working in children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) fell from 1,015 full-time equivalent posts in May 2013 to 948 in May this year. The figure includes all doctors working in CAMHS psychiatry, both consultants and trainees.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, which uncovered the drop in NHS Digital’s most recent detailed breakdown of the NHS’s 1.4 million workforce, said it was “deeply concerning”. CAMHS teams are already struggling to keep up with the fast-rising number of referrals they are receiving for young people who have anxiety, depression, eating disorders or other conditions. Growing numbers of under-18s in England are self-harming, with the recent rise especially pronounced among girls.

“At a time when demand on mental health services is at its most acute, we are continuously finding that the supply is just not there. As more and more children and young people come forward with mental health problems, fewer and fewer specialists are available,” said Dr Jon Goldin, the vice-chair of the college’s faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry. “The government must show they are aware of the deficit of doctors working in mental health, and commit to a plan to address this deeply concerning imbalance,” said Goldin.

Many CAMHS teams are seeing experienced psychiatrists retire and are also having difficulty finding recruits to fill vacant posts, leading to a shortfall that is affecting the delivery of patient care.

The charity Young Minds warned that the dwindling CAMHS medical workforce could lead to children and young people waiting even longer to receive urgent treatment.

Full story in The Guardian, 24 September 2017