Children's charity drafted in to tackle Suffolk mental health backlog

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Angela Sharpe Photography

A leading national children's charity has agreed to help the NHS reduce the backlog of appointments for young people in Suffolk. 

The Emotional Wellbeing Hub, run by Suffolk County Council and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, is an access and assessment service for 0 to 25-year-olds.

Its less serious referrals, given a green marker, have been experiencing delays. 

And children's charity Barnardo's has been drafted in to clear the "slippage", according to a meeting of the Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG Governing Board on Tuesday. 

The Emotional Wellbeing Hub's more serious cases, red and amber, which often involve self-harm and suicide are providing support "within agreed timescales". 

Richard Watson, deputy chief executive officer and director of transformation and strategy, said the backlog is currently around 300 cases but has come down by over 1,000. 

"The Barnardo's offer is something we are looking to extend," he said.

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Currently, he said the charity helps with some referrals and this will be bumped up so EWH staff can "focus on the backlog". 

A helpline for parents and carers will also be run by the charity. 

There were also concerns about NSFT being "unable to meet the standards required for both urgent and routine referrals" for eating disorders, the CCG report also said. 

The report added: "Crisis pathway and support has been reviewed and regularly meetings are in place to ensure crisis cases sit in the appropriate pathway."

This comes after James Sutton, 16, died on March 31 2021 after his amber referral was downgraded to green

His GP put him down as urgent case on his referral to the hub, which needed to be seen within 72 hours.

An inquest into the death of the Copleston High School Sixth Form student heard that there were not enough details from the doctor, who had his receptionist fill out the form.

EWH sent a text to James without speaking to him, his GP or his parents saying his treatment had been downgraded so he would be seen within 28 days.

After an NSFT investigation, reforms were made that required the EWH to always call parents, and in most cases the child and their GP after a referral.

Stuart Richardson, chief executive at NSFT said in December there were "missed opportunities to help James" and changes have been made including a new referral form, more direct referrals and specialists to help GPs.