Access and waiting times in children and young people’s mental health services
The Education Policy Institute utilised the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to information regarding the referrals of young people to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Over a quarter of young people referred to specialist mental health services in 2016-17 were not accepted, an increase since 2013, but this figure is not consistent between regions. There is now a greater variation in services compared with five years ago, with a more vast difference in referral rates and waiting times. Refusals are often due to high standards of referral requirements and bureaucratic errors, but sometimes due to being referred elsewhere. Therefore, this difference could be due to lack of training in correct and appropriate referral, as well as what services are available for different stages and types of treatment needed.
There has been some decrease in waiting times this year since 2015-16 but again this varies, with some of the longest waiting times being found to be providers in London. There is therefore a case for the instilling of standardised waiting times across the UK. Many they cited a lack of capacity to meet the high demand on services as the reason for delays. The longest waiting times, where this information was available, were for neurodevelopmental disorders, Autism or Asperger’s syndrome, and ADHD, as well as learning difficulties. This is due to the lengthy assessment needed to diagnose these conditions, and the lack of capacity for conducting this.
Providers noted an increase in referrals over the past year which is supported by the Education Policy Institute’s own findings. They suggest a need for standardisation across providers in order to provide better data on where improvements can be made, and to be able to share best practice.
“We have a perfect storm of dramatically increasing demand for CAMHS services and a system that is becoming increasingly unable to provide the support that is needed.
The current spotlight on this serious issue is welcomed and justified but more attention must be placed on prevention and realistic programmes that are likely to make a difference. More training for teachers and accountability on the education system is not the answer since we need to increase workforce capacity to give children the time, support and expertise they really need.”
– John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director
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