More staff needed to cope with surge in demand for emotional wellbeing services for families

Suffolk County Council manages fewer schools than it used to do. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council manages fewer schools than it used to do. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

Suffolk’s Emotional Wellbeing Hub is under pressure less than a year after it was opened with staff dealing with up to twice as many referrals each month as initially predicted.

Health chiefs have admitted that the centre, which was designed to transform the way children, teenagers, adults, parents and carers to access mental health support and advice, has a backlog of cases because of the unexpected demands.

The hub was formed in April last year in response to concerns that navigating the different pathways through different organisations was too difficult.

Resources were put in place to deal with an expected 500 new referrals a month, but data published for the health scrutiny committee this month revealed it was actually facing an average of 630 new cases per month – with as many as 1,200 referrals in February alone.

In a joint statement, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), Suffolk County Council and the clinical commissioning groups, said: “The Emotional Wellbeing Hub, a multi-agency venture, was set up to make it easier for young people and their families to access mental health advice and support.

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“This improved access to support, along with a greater complexity of the issues being presented and a greater awareness of mental health issues nationally, has resulted in higher demand on our services.

“We are, however, committed to ensuring that the hub continues to provide the therapeutic conversations and access to services and signposting it was designed to.

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“Over the past year we have looked at the resources, processes and structure of the hub to ensure we can respond more quickly.

“We have also recruited additional highly qualified clinicians to help children and young people with complex issues.

“There has been a 25% reduction in the waiting list in the last five weeks, with new referrals now being dealt with in a timely manner.”

NSFT said much of its staff had worked additional hours to help see through the backlog, and more trained clinicians have been recruited over the last few months.

The trust added that it aimed to have the backlog reduced to zero within the coming months.

It is understood it is too early for officially-verified feedback, but chiefs are continuing to monitor the demand in order to assess any further changes needed going forward, with the report adding that they “remain confident” the hub is the right approach.

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