Children’s mental health waiting list coverup
Mental health trust will not say how many children are on its waiting list
By Sarah Ward
Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT) will not say how many of the county’s children are on the waiting list for mental health treatment, amid suspicions some are waiting two years for help.
The amount of children in need of CAMHS services has increased sharply in the aftermath of the pandemic, with the Guardian recently reporting that more than 400,000 children a month are receiving treatment in England, a record figure.
NHFT, which is the provider of mental health services for the county’s adults and children, published its annual quality report at the end of June and despite numerous references to issues within the children’s mental health services, it did not report how many children are waiting for help.
West Northamptonshire Council’s people scrutiny committee wrote to the trust in May before the final report had been published to express its concerns about the omission.
It wrote: “It is disappointing that there is no mention of the current waiting list for CAMHS in the county: councillors have heard that this is estimated at up to two years to receive treatment. This is alongside health services following the COVID-19 pandemic: the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation have identified an 81% increase in referrals for CAMHS from April to September 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. I would therefore urge NHFT to consider adding an additional priority for 2022/23 aiming to reduce urgently the waiting list for young people being referred to CAMHS for assessment and treatment.”
On Friday NN Journal asked the trust, which is led by Angela Hillary, for the figures of the number of children waiting for treatment, the average wait from referral to treatment and the longest amount of time a child had been waiting.
A media officer for the trust said it was unable to provide an answer because, ‘the data requested is not currently in the public domain, therefore will need to go through the freedom of information process so that it can be properly collated and validated for release.’
A request to the freedom of information department can take up to 20 working days for a response and it is not guaranteed an answer will be provided.
As we reported in April, the trust is carrying out a review into the number of self harm incidents of patients being treated within its wards. There are often more than 50 incidents a month. Reducing the self harm incidents is one of the trust’s priorities for this year along with assessing issues that impact on access to CAMHS services.
An insight into the services provided by NHFT is given by a recently published report by Northamptonshire Healthwatch - an organisation which represents patients' views.
Healthwatch worked with the Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (which has now been replaced by the Integrated Care Board) to look into the patient experience of moving from the CAMHS service to adult mental health services.
The report gives an at times bleak assessment of what some users experienced.
One told Healthwatch: “In four years I only had 2 appointments with CAMHS and I wasn't sent to another service. I had to seek them out myself.”
Another said: “My mum had to beg and constantly call CAMHS to get them to see me. She helped me with the process of finding me services and has kept me motivated against a system that works against me.
And a third said: “If I had got the help I needed when I was younger, I wouldn’t need as much help now.”
If you have a child who is waiting for CAMHs treatment you can contact NN Journal reporter Natalie Bloomer at firstname.lastname@example.org