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NHS England dismisses study claiming 26% of referrals to CAMHS are rejected

Think tank’s claims that more than one in four children and young people in England referred to specialist mental health services are rejected for treatment, dismissed as flawed by NHS

Think tank’s claims that more than one in four children and young people in England referred to specialist mental health services are rejected for treatment, dismissed as flawed by NHS England

Picture shows a teenage girl sitting across a table across from a physician. The NHS rejects a think tank’s claim that more than one in four children and young people referred to specialist mental health services are rejected for treatment.
Picture: iStock

A study by an education policy think tank claiming that more than one in four children and young people referred to specialist mental health services are rejected for treatment was dismissed by the NHS as being flawed and based on wrong assumptions.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) study said it was unclear what support was available to the approximately 133,000 young people turned away, with the group including children and young people who had self-harmed, experienced abuse or had eating disorders.

But an NHS England and NHS Improvement spokesperson said: ‘It is a shame that the authors failed to check basic facts and policy commitments in this flawed analysis, including accurately reflecting how modern services for families operate in partnership with other agencies.’

The spokesperson added: ‘It is not the first time we have had to point out why the assumption that every referral should get NHS treatment when more appropriate support might be provided elsewhere – for example from schools and local authorities – is wrong.’

Providers considered young people's conditions to be unsuitable for child and mental health services

The EPI gathered data from 62 mental health providers in England suggesting that 26% of referrals to child and mental health services (CAMHS) in the 2018-19 financial year were rejected.

It said referrals were mostly rejected because providers considered young people's conditions to be unsuitable for CAMHS or because they did not meet the eligibility criteria or age specification for the service.

The EPI study said: ‘Despite the £1.4 billion of extra spending over five years announced in 2015, the proportion of rejected referrals has not changed since we started collecting this information four years ago.’

NHS 'ahead of target on ensuring as many children as possible receive mental healthcare'

EPI warned that the government is unlikely to succeed in meeting its national CAMHS waiting time target of four weeks by 2022-23.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of mental health charity YoungMinds, said there could be ‘devastating consequences’ if young people do not get support, including dropping out of school, self-harming or becoming suicidal.

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The NHS is actually ahead of its target on ensuring as many children as possible receive mental healthcare – seeing an extra 53,000 children, teenagers and young adults last year, a 14% increase on the year before and 22% more staff in services than five years ago, against a backdrop of rising referrals.’


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