The NHS is “failing” children and young people with mental health conditions by rejecting them for not having “severe enough” symptoms and then leaving them to reach crisis point, MPs have warned.
Currently only three out of 10 children are getting the treatment they need, and those that do access support face “unacceptably long waits”, a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.
The committee found that children who are denied NHS support are currently not kept track of and are not routinely directed to other services that could help them.
“NHS services are turning away many children and young people because their condition is not considered severe enough to warrant access to overstretched services, even though it can later deteriorate to a point of crisis,” the report warns.
NHS plans set out in the Forward View for Mental Health committed to boost treatment by 2022 but would still leave two thirds (65 per cent) of those with a diagnosed mental health condition unsupported, MPs said.
On Monday the NHS published its long-term plan for revolutionising services over the next decade, including a commitment for an additional 350,000 young people to access counselling.
However, the report warn action is needed immediately and these ambitious plans are hamstrung by a workforce “roadblock” and the “inability” to recruit mental health nurses – made worse by the removal of the nursing bursary.
“Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS,” Labour’s Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the PAC, said.
“Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment. This can be devastating for people’s life chances, their physical health, education and work prospects.
“We will be keeping a close eye on the real-world impact of the measures proposed in the government’s 10-year plan for the NHS.”
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said the government must be “more ambitious” about mental-health funding because “too many children are failing to receive any support at all”.
She added: “The NHS 10 year plan will improve access to CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) for more children, but until the government can guarantee that all children will get the specialist help they need, every year thousands of children will still miss out on treatment.”