Under 18s losing out in waiting times for first mental health appointments
- Credit: Time to change/Newscast Online
Young people waiting 19 times longer for mental health appointments in parts of Suffolk, figures show.
A freedom of information request submitted to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has shown that in West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), people aged 18 and under referred to the area’s mental health services were waiting an average of 38 days, compared to just two days for those aged over 18.
A total of 1,904 people were referred to mental health services in west Suffolk - 1,076 males, 826 females and two unknown. 225 were aged 18 or under and 1,679 were aged over 18.
A similar story could be seen in Ipswich and east Suffolk CCG, as people aged 18 and under were waiting an average 62 days for a first appointment, three and a half times longer than over 18s, who were waiting for 18 days on average.
A total of 12,783 people were referred to mental health services in the area - 6,755 males, 6,025 females and three unknown. 3,348 were aged 18 or under and 9,435 were aged over 18.
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Stuart Richardson, chief operating officer for NSFT said recruitment issues meant some areas of the NHS suffered from a lack of qualified specialists.
He said: “All our patients are important and we endeavour to give everyone high-quality care at all times.
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“Recruitment is an issue across the NHS. This is especially the case in specialist areas such as children and young people’s mental health.
“The challenges that we have experienced in recruiting staff with the right specialist skills and expertise has resulted in delays in children and young people receiving assessments.
“The success of the Emotional Wellbeing Hub, which was set up in April 2018 to make it easier for young people and their families to access mental health advice and support, along with a greater awareness of mental health issues nationally, has resulted in higher demand on our services.”
Anne Humphrys, co-chair for Suffolk Parent Carer Network said: “The recent inspection by the CQC into the NSFT revealed serious problems within the services provided and that is leading to long waiting times for people using them.
“We see the families across Suffolk who experience this each day.
“It is unacceptable for children and young people to have to wait to access mental health services.
“Young people are being forced to wait until their needs become more intense and the services they need become more intense.
“Long waiting times can cause young people to develop mental health crises or drive them to self harm. We have not seen any improvement from the NSFT since their inadequate rating.
“They need to improve so that young people in Suffolk are treated quickly so that they do not suffer more severe health issues.”
The NSFT has now been rated ‘inadequate’ three times in a row by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The lack of services at the trust was highlighted in the CQC’s most recent report following an inspection in September.
The trust has now been put into special measures and there have been calls for it to be abolished by local MPs if it does not improve its standards.
All Norfolk and Suffolk MPs were invited to a conference call at the start of December with the CQC to discuss the trust’s future.
It said the NSFT had four years to improve but still was not meeting the standards expected of it by inspectors.
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has previously voiced his concerns about the poor standards of the NSFT.
He said that if the trust does not make a rapid turnaround in time he will join calls for its abolition.
“I believe we need to have an end-point beyond which we do not allow the trust to continue to fail,” he said.
“I believe those who need to use our mental health services have the right to know the dire situation is being improved. “We cannot just continue to make excuses for the organisation on the basis of vague promises.”