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MORE EVIDENCE: Covid and lockdowns behind rise in child mental health referrals

MORE EVIDENCE: Covid and lockdowns behind rise in child mental health referrals

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have seen a rise in demand following the coronavirus outbreak

More evidence of the worrying toll on children’s mental health caused by the covid-19 pandemic has emerged with referrals to specialist NHS services on Teesside having increased by nearly a third compared to the same period two years ago.

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said in the first quarter of 2021/22 2,702 children and young people had been referred to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) on Teesside, compared to 2,084 in the same period in 2018/19, a 29.6% increase.

CAMHS is a network providing specialist care and consists of teams, including psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers who support children with conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia.

The trust said 4,538 children and young people were currently open to receiving help from CAMHS on Teesside, while an estimated figure of between a thousand and 1,500 were also receiving interventions from third sector organisations across the Tees Valley because of their mental health and emotional wellbeing needs.

Mental Health

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust has a freephone telephone line which people in mental distress can use to access urgent help, Image: LDRS

The figures were included in a presentation covering children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing and the impact of the pandemic, which was delivered to Redcar and Cleveland Council’s children and families scrutiny committee.

The trust said the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had increased loneliness, along with worries about the future and also had a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged families.

As a result increased demands were being placed on local authorities and the services they commissioned for children and young people.

Despite increased demand, youngsters faced less of an average wait for their first appointment with Teesside-based CAMHS, just over four weeks compared to the national average of eight weeks.

A total of 90% of referrals were seen within four weeks in the first quarter of 2021/22.

However the picture was less rosy in terms of those waiting for a specialist autism assessment with youngsters in this category facing a two year wait in Redcar and Cleveland.

The trust said: “[This is] below expected standard and further impact [is] likely to be seen in the short term as a result of high levels of staff absence in 2021.”

The trust said there was a “keeping in touch” process to monitor for any changes in need and to signpost to other sources of support, and manage risk.

Meanwhile, urgent cases received an immediate response through the trust’s 24/7 crisis and intensive home treatment team.

It said moving forward it would expect to see 10 to 20% of children and young people on Teesside – about 18,225 people – presenting with mental health and/or emotional wellbeing needs.

The majority (60%) would need a defined period of evidenced-based intervention, for example talking therapies and counselling, 30% would need advice and signposting, between 5% and 10% would need longer treatment and support, and between 5% and 10% crisis support because of their urgent condition.

The trust said it was investing in its community eating disorders service, there having been a national rise in demand and there also being no specialist beds for children and young people with eating disorders in the North-East.

It said: “Young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing is everybody’s business.

“Further transformation is needed with health, social care and education working together on all aspects of children, young people and family well being.”

The trust was also coordinating with primary care networks the placement of CAMHS practitioners into GP practices.

In June, Dominic Gardner, director of operations on Teesside for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, told members of the Tees Valley joint health scrutiny committee that there were “challenges” with children’s mental health.

But he said greater investment was taking place in mental health services, set against the increased demand.

NHS England has acknowledged the pandemic has been very difficult for children and young people and says it is in the process of significantly expanding access to services to ensure they can receive quick access to care.

By 2023 this is intended to help support another 345,000 children and young people.

A spokeswoman said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic has turned children and young people’s lives upside down.”

 

Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter


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