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'Serious gaps' in mental health crisis care for children, report warns

There are 'serious gaps' in crisis care for children with mental health problems, a new report has warned.
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There are 'serious gaps' in crisis care for children with mental health problems, a new report has warned .

One in ten local health areas has no plan to improve crisis care for young people, according to the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which analysed data from NHS England to produce the report.

Wide variation

EPI director of mental health Emily Frith said: 'This report highlights the extremely wide variation in funding and performance across the NHS on children's mental health.

'It demonstrates that the government still has a long way to go to drive up standards.

'Our analysis illustrates the need for further national scrutiny of local transformation

There are 'serious gaps' in crisis care for children with mental health problems, a new report has warned.


Some local health bodies are spending twice as much on mental health care for children and
young people than others. Picture: iStock

One in ten local health areas has no plan to improve crisis care for young people, according to the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which analysed data from NHS England to produce the report.

Wide variation

EPI director of mental health Emily Frith said: 'This report highlights the extremely wide variation in funding and performance across the NHS on children's mental health.

'It demonstrates that the government still has a long way to go to drive up standards.

'Our analysis illustrates the need for further national scrutiny of local transformation plans and funding, so that the much-vaunted improvements to services are actually delivered.'

Less than a third (31.6%) of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) had an operational improvement plan in place, despite government-acknowledgment improvements are needed in this field.

'The provision of services for young people in mental health crisis is in many areas inadequate, a situation which has led to children being held in police cells, on adult wards, or moved to inpatient care out of their local area,' the authors wrote.

Children on adult wards rise

The researchers also found that the number of children with mental health problems being treated on adult wards rose slightly last year, despite government recommendations that no one under the age of 18 should be treated on an adult ward.

Between July and September last year, 90 young people spent a total of 2,654 days on adult wards. This figure had risen from 79 children spending 1,938 days on adult wards between April and June last year.

The report also found that some local health bodies are spending twice as much on mental health care for children and young people than others.

Each CCG was asked to state their planned annual spending on children's mental health and the EPI compared this data with child population estimates for each health region.

'There is wide variation in these levels of planned investment in children's mental health care per capita across the country,' the authors found.

'CCGs in the top quarter spend over £52 per capita. Those in the bottom quarter spend £23 or less per capita.'

The report concludes that almost three quarters (73.2 %) of CCGs failed to meet NHS England's benchmark for improving services.

'Deeply alarming'

Barnado's chief executive Javed Khan said: 'This deeply alarming report shows what a postcode lottery children's mental health treatment is in England.'

Royal College of Psychiatrists child and adolescent faculty chair Peter Hindley said: 'Commissioners must revisit their spending commitments in this chronically underfunded area.'

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: 'We know change won't happen overnight, but improvements to services are on track. 

'There are a record number of child and adolescent mental health services' beds, and there will be liaison mental health services in every emergency department by 2020.'


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