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Children mental health services waiting times update in Lewisham

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No young person has been waiting more than a year to access mental health services in Lewisham since October.

As of last week, of the 222 children and young people waiting for their first contact with Lewisham Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), 41 were waiting between 39 and 51 weeks, 83 between 19 and 38 weeks, 28 between 12 and 18 weeks, 33 between five and 11 weeks, and 37 under a month.

All those waiting 39 weeks have booked appointments.

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Croydon, Lambeth, and Southwark CAMHS all have children waiting more than a year.

The latest figures have significantly improved follow a stark picture in 2018, when it emerged that 96 young people in Lewisham were waiting more than a year.

Lewisham CAMHS is meeting the NHS national target for treating young people with a diagnosable mental health condition.

But that target is only 35 per cent, leaving many children’s mental health needs unmet.

We wouldn’t do that in any other service

Despite 222 referrals to Lewisham CAMHS being accepted, 121 young people were rejected.

Harold Bennison, CAMHS service director at South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation, presented the details to Lewisham’s children and young people select committee last week (November 26).

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He said Lewisham CAMHS meeting the national access target was “fantastic” but highlighted that the figure was “simply” 35 per cent.

“We wouldn’t do that in any other service,” he said.

The NHS long-term plan, covering to 2023/24, has changed the access target slightly, opening it to age 0 to 25, “so the well-recognised cliff edge of 18 is no longer experienced”, he said.

But Mr Bennison added that “even with that”, about 30 to 40 per cent of need is unmet.

To tackle the issue SLaM is holding Saturday clinics twice a month, an assistant psychologist is in contact with all young people waiting 39 weeks or more, and it is focusing on how digital access could help.

Recognising that although we’ve made progress in reducing waiting times, there are still too many young people waiting a long time or not even getting onto the waiting list because of high thresholds

Sir Norman Lamb, chair at SLaM Foundation Trust, said the Government should be investing in youth services.

“Recognising that although we’ve made progress in reducing waiting times, there are still too many young people waiting a long time or not even getting onto the waiting list because of high thresholds,” he said.

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He added: “For teenagers and families that are desperate, getting early access to help seems to be essential.”

Race inequality 

In the aftermath of BLM, the protests following the death of George Floyd, it’s incumbent upon us to confront this directly and to be honest about it

Sir Norman also told the committee what SLaM was doing to tackle race inequality.

SLaM is one four pilot areas in the country trialling an approach called the patient and carer race equality framework.

The idea is for mental health trusts to work with local communities to identify gaps and get to grips with data around race.

“We know broadly that young Black men are overrepresented, disproportionately impacted by compulsory detentions under the Mental Health Act and the use of restraint on in-patient wards.

“But we need to get the data really clear and agreed and then we need to work out actions to confront those inequalities and to preferably eradicate them,” he said.

SLaM is also working on a “new vision” for the organisation.

Sir Norman said “confronting directly the race dimension” in mental health services will be a “core element” of the new vision.

“In the aftermath of BLM, the protests following the death of George Floyd, it’s incumbent upon us to confront this directly and to be honest about it,” he said.

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The Trust has also agreed to start “reverse mentoring”, linking board members up with a member of staff from a Black or minority ethnic group to “mentor leaders of the organisation so that we gain a proper understanding of some of the barriers that people face”.

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