Parents pen letter to government over 'grave' state of children's mental health services
SUFFOLK PARENT CARER NETWORK
Families, parents and carers angry at the state of children and young adult mental health services in Suffolk have penned a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock demanding urgent change.
Anne Humphrys and Clare Kingaby-Lewis, co-chairs of the Suffolk Parent Carer Network (SPCN), have outlined "grave concerns" about the threat facing Suffolk's most vulnerable young people to West Suffolk MP and health secretary Mr Hancock.
It comes as community children and adolescent mental health services at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) were found to be poor in an inspection report published today.
At the time of the Care Quality Commission's visit to the trust, from October to November last year, 421 young patients were waiting for assessment in child and adult mental health services (CAMHS).
'Unfit for purpose'
Just 39% of referrals were seen within the trust's target of 10 days, with 150 people waiting more than 10 days.
Some people waited for more than 12 months for assessment within its ADHD service - and inspectors identified just one nurse was working with a caseload of 175 patients, with 80 people on the waiting list in October 2019.
Much of this was put down to inadequate staffing, which was putting pressure on existing workers.
"It is blatantly clear that mental health services for children and young people remain unfit for purpose," campaigners have warned this morning, adding that "it is time for the health and care system across Suffolk to be accountable to children, young people and families and to provide urgent improvements."
NSFT's chief executive, Jonathan Warren, reached out to the group yesterday, which campaigners said was a "welcome contact", which they hope may result in NSFT working more collaborative with them.
However, the group felt the issue was of national importance and so this morning sent off a letter to Mr Hancock.
Their letter, which calls on the government to take action, adds: "The CQC report clearly indicates that NSFT continues to deteriorate in relation to mental health services for children and young people.
"We are gravely concerned and after the last CQC inspection the chief executive of NSFT spoke about a six month time period for improvement.
"Fourteen months later services for children, young people and families remain inadequate.
It continues: "We are concerned that there appears to be no action being taken other than remaining in special measures.
"Once again, we are asking you, as secretary of state for health and social care, to support us to accelerate strategic and organisational change in Suffolk as our population deserve to be able to access high quality, safe, effective, responsive mental health services."
Trust 'moving in the right direction'
Mr Warren recognised that specialist community mental health services for children and young people were rated 'inadequate' overall.
He said: "It is disappointing that we still have one service rated inadequate.
"We are working closely with commissioners to reduce waiting lists for young people and are transforming the way we tackle mental ill health in young people.
"The service is on a long improvement journey, but I believe we're moving in the right direction and come the next CQC inspection, we will start to see that reflected in its rating."
Ed Garratt, chief executive of Suffolk's two clinical commissioning groups, was pleased to see the NSFT achieve an improved 'overall' rating of 'requires improvement'.
However, he added: "There is more work to do to strive for a CQC position of 'good'. I am concerned that inspectors found specialist community mental health for young people to be 'inadequate'.
"As a system of leaders working across the NHS, social care and voluntary sector, we will redouble our efforts to support improvement in these services.
Watchdog 'highly concerned' about levels of help available to children
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said the outcome of this "critically important" inspection is reflective of the efforts staff, clinicians and stakeholders have made to attempt to improve mental health services.
However, he added: "We remain highly concerned about the levels of help available to children and young people in Suffolk.
"They, and their families, have told us about ongoing and severe problems with obtaining support in Suffolk. Much of this is related to waiting times, a lack of reliable support upon accessing a service, barriers to getting an initial referral into CAMHS and a subsequent feeling of being passed between services."
Mr Hancock has been approached for comment on the letter.