Up to 260 young people a week referred to mental health wellbeing hub

The number of pupils self isolating in Suffolk has dropped slightly Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTO

The return to school has led to a small increase in cases, say health chiefs - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The under-pressure children’s mental health hub in Suffolk is undergoing a transformation plan over the next six months - as it emerged it is receiving up to 260 referrals a week.

Data published under Freedom of Information laws in June revealed that 25,000 youngsters had used the Emotional Wellbeing Hub since its inception in March 2018, with more than 1,900 youngsters waiting for triage.

It was formed to act as a central point of contact for those aged up to 25 needing to access mental health or emotional wellbeing support.

But bosses at the county’s clinical commissioning groups have revealed a revamp of the service will help it meet persistent demand.

Chiefs have said that a ‘recovery plan’ is under way to tackle the backlog of referrals while still addressing fresh cases.

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A key part of that has been commissioning Suffolk Mind and Barnardo’s in the last few weeks to offer immediate support to new referrals who will be on the waiting list.

The service operates on a RAG system – red, amber and green, – with red the most urgent and green the least.

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The service admitted that green referrals on the waiting list remained “high”, but said there were no backlog in red or amber cases.

Meanwhile, referrals in recent weeks have been between 163 and 260 cases per week, mostly cases of anxiety or depression.

A spokeswoman from the CCG, who is helping co-ordinate the changes, said: “Demand is still very high. The return to school saw a little bit of a peak again in demand, which tends to happen. 

“There is a lot of work being done around a recovery plan so that we are reducing backlog numbers, but also dealing with everything that is coming in at the same time."

A revamp of the referral system from schools and GPs, which are two of the biggest referrers into the system at more than 70%, is being reviewed as it is believed other avenues for those could garner quicker support.

For those on the waiting list, services such as Parents and Carers Together (PACT) or online counselling are being recommended to provide interim help and signposting to other avenues of assistance.

But a CCG spokeswoman also confirmed that a transformation plan is also addressing longer term changes, due to be in place by April next year.

That will include primary care network staff linked to GP surgeries who can offer direct support early on, while an early intervention service is being formed to catch youngsters quicker before needs develop requiring more complex care.

The spokeswoman confirmed that the hub, run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Suffolk County Council,  will not be closing but “might just look and feel a bit different”.

“There is loads going on, but because of the huge spike in demand due to Covid what you are seeing is where there were probably cracks before they are just getting bigger because of the demand across the system,” she explained. 

“You can’t just move that demand around, you have to start thinking creatively and differently about how you stem that demand.

“That is where early intervention stuff comes in because I would much rather see our effort go into early intervention because if you can reach children, young people and families before they get too poorly they are not going to need to access specialist services. 

“Some always will need to access those services, but the less people we have having to access crisis services the better. We don’t want people getting to that stage where support is sometimes too late.”

She added that the plan also aims to reduce the amount of instances of families being passed around from service to service.

The full package of changes is due to be outlined nearer to April.

Bec Jasper from PACT works with parents, youngsters and families with those needing mental health support.

She has reported that “parents are experiencing extreme delays waiting triage appointments from the wellbeing hub,” with some parents told waiting lists were in excess of nine months or up to a year.

“We really just need parents to know they aren’t alone and that support is provided in the group,” she said.
“There are no waiting lists or referral process to navigate, or cost to bear.”

To find out more about available support from PACT visit www.parentsandcarerstogether.co.uk or for support from the Emotional Welbeing Hub call 0345 600 2090.

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