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05.10.16

‘Foolish’ not to focus on CAMHS as 70% of nurses find services inadequate

It is “foolish” of the NHS and the government not to focus on meeting the needs of children with mental health issues, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said, as a poll revealed seven in 10 specialist nurses find CAMHS services either ‘inadequate’ or ‘highly inadequate’.

Of the 631 mental health nurses working in CAMHS surveyed, half said services are inadequate, whilst another 20% said they were highly inadequate. Just 13% believed they are good or very good, and the rest think they are simply ‘adequate’.

Fiona Smith, the RCN’s professional lead for children and young people’s nursing, said: “We are failing young people with mental health problems by not providing services and interventions in a timely manner.

“It’s foolish of the NHS and the government not to really focus on meeting these young people’s needs, because we know that with [the] three out of four adults with mental health problems, their symptoms began in childhood.”

The poll, undertaken by the RCN for the Guardian, also revealed that 43% of surveyed nurses said services were getting worse – despite government promises of extra cash and assurances that more young people would be able to access care.

Asked about the main problems with CAMHS services, around 73% of polled nurses cited a small workforce, whilst 72% argued delays in patients getting appointments were a major issue. Almost 70% cited young people being sent to get care out-of-area due to bed shortages and another 59% cited their inability to give patients as many appointments as they need.

One RCN member commented: “Children and their families are suffering due to poor CAMHS, support and availability.

“The criteria for referral means children are having to attempt or threaten to take their own lives before receiving support.”

Smith also told the Guardian that the survey results highlight how services are “completely overstretched” in face of growing demand, with mental health nurses telling her that “they have never known it so bad”.

Sarah Brennan, the chief executive of the YoungMinds charity, also argued that children’s mental health services have been “woefully underfunded” for years.

“While the government’s extra investment is welcome, it’s unclear whether it’s making a difference to frontline services. Even if the new money is spent where it’s intended, the chief of NHS England has admitted that it will only be enough to reach a third of the children who need help,” she said.

“Because of long waiting lists the threshold for accessing specialist services has got higher. Without treatment, problems are very likely to escalate and children are more likely to self-harm or become suicidal, to be violent and aggressive, or to drop out of school, which can ruin their prospects for the future.”

Figures from NHS Digital released in late September also revealed that one in six adults in England now meet the criteria for a common mental disorder, highlighting the depth of the issue across the board.

 

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