Posted: 11 January 2016

Young people enduring long waiting times for urgent mental health care

Last week, the Children’s Commissioner for England expressed her concerns around the state of children’s mental health services and will be looking into exactly how long children wait for appointments.

Her comments align with our recent report Access Denied revealed that in 2014-15 children waited 66 days on average for an initial assessment by specialist mental health services. In some areas waits for conditions including severe depression and anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and psychosis, stretch to 140 days – almost five months. By contrast, there are six-week targets in place for many physical health conditions.

Today the Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a 'revolution in mental health treatment' and promised nearly £1bn investment in improving mental health services across the country. The announcement forms part of the Government’s new strategy to transform the people’s life chances and tackle poverty. The Government’s plans include improving mental healthcare for new mothers, mental health services in A&E departments, 24/7 treatment in communities as an alternative to hospital. Mr Cameron has also re-announced the Government’s commitment to improving access and waiting times for those experiencing eating disorders and psychosis.

Unclear how vulnerable young people get timely access to mental health services

These announcements are welcome and much needed. However for young people we work with, the change may be still a long time away as the Government has not set out just how vulnerable young people – who may have a range of mental health needs, such as self-harm, those recovering from childhood trauma or abuse - can get speedy and timely access to mental health services. All vulnerable young people need to have equal and timely access to mental health support.

We are calling on the Government to introduce new standards on access and waiting times for all mental health conditions. The Department of Health should also set out clearly, in national statutory guidance, the rights of young people to receive appropriate levels of support for various conditions, as well as stating which cases should be fast-tracked, to tackle the postcode lottery of treatment.

By Kadra Abdinasir - Policy team
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