Health trust denies charity’s claim that children are being ‘turned away’
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A health trust in Cambridgeshire has refuted suggestions that hundreds of children have been ‘rejected’ mental health treatment in the county.
Figures released by the NSPCC showed that in the financial year 2016/17, 4,372 children were referred to mental health services for assessment in Cambridgeshire, with 1,370 of those not accepted for treatment.
A year previously, 1,439 of 4,052 children assessed were not accepted for treatment.
The NSPCC said these children had been “turned away” and called on the Government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention, to ensure that young people’s mental health does not have to reach crisis point before they are able to get help.
The charity also found that children were waiting an average of 55 days for an assessment in 2016/17, although this was a significant improvement on 2015/16, when the average wait was 101 days.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is desperately sad to see so many young people facing distress around mental health issues being forced to wait months for assessment by mental health services, many of whom are then rejected for treatment altogether.
“We recognise the hard work of mental health professionals in trying to help young people get their lives back on track. However, too many children who need help are struggling access support and treatment which can help them to recover.
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“The Government’s upcoming green paper on mental health must urgently evaluate the early support systems available to young people to ensure that no child is left to suffer in silence.”
Previous NSPCC research has found that an increasing demand for services means many young people, including those who have suffered sexual abuse and neglect, do not meet the clinical threshold to access mental health services and are turned away from treatment.
The charity’s conclusions have been countered by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust (CPFT), however, which said children who are not accepted for treatment were not being rejected or left isolated.
Dr Venkat Reddy, clinical director for children, young people and families at CPFT, said: “The figures do not tell the full story about the work of our children and young people’s mental health teams or the work that is going on across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
“CPFT provides specialist mental health services for children and young people whose needs are classified as ‘moderate to severe’.
“It is incorrect to suggest CPFT turns away or denies help to children whose needs are mild to moderate.
“Instead, following their assessment, we work very hard to ensure those children and their families are sign-posted to other organisations in the local area – commissioned by the NHS – to provide them with the right services to meet their needs such as young people’s counselling or parenting programmes which may be more suitable to meet their needs.”
Catherine Mitchell, director of community services and integration at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said “The CCG is committed to enhancing early intervention services for children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing.
“Over the past three years, as well as significant investment in specialist CAMHS, it has increased investment in counselling services, has commissioned a new online counselling service and invested in evidence based parenting programmes.
“The CCG has also developed training and support programmes for schools, GPs and other community-based professionals.”