NHS Long-Term Plan promises continued investment in children's mental health

NHS states that all children needing specialist mental health help should be able to access it

Published on 8th January 2019

NHS England has pledged that 100% of children and young people who need specialist help for mental health problems should be able to access it over the next decade.

The NHS Long-Term Plan states that over the next five years, the NHS will continue to invest in expanding access to community-based mental health services to meet the needs of more children and young people.

"By 2023/24, at least an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0-25 will be able to access support via NHS funded mental health services and school or college-based Mental Health Support Teams," said the plan. "Over the coming decade the goal is to ensure that 100% of children and young people who need specialist care can access it."

Mental Health Support Teams were a key strand of the government's green paper into children and young people's mental health. They will support designated mental health leads who will be based in schools and provide a direct link between schools and the NHS.

One in every nine children aged five to 15-years-old has a diagnosable mental health problem and half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14.

Under this Long Term Plan, the NHS is making a new commitment that funding for children and young people’s mental health services will grow faster than both overall NHS funding and total mental health spending.

Over the next five years, the NHS will also boost investment in children and young  people’s eating disorder services.  Four fifths of children and young people with an eating disorder now receive treatment within one week in urgent cases and four weeks for non-urgent cases. As need continues to rise, extra investment will enable the NHS to maintain delivery of the 95% standard beyond 2020/21.

Children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to access the support they need.  Expanding timely, age-appropriate crisis services will improve the experience of children and young people and reduce pressures on accident and emergency (A&E) departments, paediatric wards and ambulance services.

The Long-Term Plan highlights how between the ages of 16-18, young people are more susceptible to mental illness, undergoing physiological change and making important transitions in their lives. The current structure of mental health services often creates gaps for young people undergoing the transition from children and young people’s mental health services to appropriate support including adult mental health services.

As a result, a new approach to young adult mental health services will be designed for people aged 18-25 which will support the transition to adulthood. The current service models will be extended to create a comprehensive offer for 0-25 year olds that reaches across mental health services for children, young people and adults. The new model will deliver an integrated approach across health, social care, education and the voluntary sector.

Mental health support for children and young people will be embedded in schools and colleges as outlined in the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper.  Over the next five years, the NHS will fund the new Mental Health Support Teams working in schools and colleges, building on the support already available, which will be rolled out to between one-fifth and a quarter of the country by the end of 2023.

The NHS will work with schools, parents and local councils and this work will demonstrate whether more upstream preventative support, including better information sharing and the use of digital interventions, helps moderate the need for specialist child and adolescent mental health services. It will thereby test approaches that could feasibly deliver four week waiting times for access to NHS support, ahead of introducing new national waiting time standards for all  children and young people who need specialist mental health services.

Finally, in selected areas, the NHS will also develop new services for children who have complex needs that are not currently being met, including a number of children who have been subject to sexual assault but who are not reaching the attention of Sexual Assault Referral Services. For 6,000 highly vulnerable children with complex trauma, this will provide consultation, advice, assessment, treatment and transition into integrated services.

Responding to commitments in the NHS 10 year plan to improve child and adolescent mental health services, children's commissioner for England Anne Longfield said: “I welcome the commitment to make child and adolescent mental health services a priority and the promise of extra resources so that more children can receive support and treatment as quickly as possible. I also pay tribute to those in the NHS who are doing all they can make improvements to the system.

“However, every year thousands of children will still fail to receive the help they need. The Government must be more ambitious and its aim should be for a CAMHS system that helps every child suffering from a mental illness, not just some. That will require bolder policies like an NHS-funded counsellor in every school to identify and tackle problems early, and closer parity between what is spent on adult and child mental health services.”

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