Inspection and Regulation

16.01.19

NHS failing in mental health provision for young people and children, says PAC

The NHS is currently failing young people with mental health problems, with only three in 10 receiving the NHS-funded treatment they needed last year, according to MPs.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has slammed “unacceptably long” waiting times in the treatment of children and young people with mental health issues and has criticised the NHS’s efforts for failing to deliver the required provision of care.

With just three in 10 children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition able to access NHS-funded treatment in the last financial year, the PAC report has stated that the government must also step in.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS. Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment.

“This can be devastating for people’s life chances; their physical health, education, and work prospects.”

The PAC called for a “parity of esteem” between mental health and physical health services and said the government and NHS’s commitments so far were unclear in practice, with no comprehensive long-term plan for how it will fulfil these commitments.

The report identified a lack of trained mental health professionals as one of the major reasons behind the failings and said that “it is clear that the government’s inability to increase the number of mental health nurses is a roadblock to progress in this area.”

Hillier continued: “The NHS must accelerate efforts to ensure it has the right staff with the right skills in the right places. But there is a broader role for government in better supporting children and young people.

“Effective action on prevention and early intervention can help young people more quickly, as well as relieve pressures on health services.

“We will be keeping a close eye on the real-world impact of the measures proposed in the government’s 10-year plan for the NHS.”

Other failings in the mental health services include a focus on treatment at the expense of prevention, a lack of data, and a lack of co-operation between departments.

The PAC urged the government to make urgent headway on all these fronts and said the NHS should set out exactly how it plans to accelerate progress.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, welcomed the PAC report, and said that whilst progress had been made, the number of young people and children waiting too long for mental health treatment was “unsustainable.”

Image credit - Carlo107

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