Poor NHS provision failing young people

The Public Accounts Committee has warned that the majority of young people with a mental health condition are not getting the treatment they need.

In 2017-18 only three in ten children and young people with a mental health condition received NHS-funded treatment, and many more faced unacceptably long waits for treatment. With the government promising ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health services, the group of MPs have now claimed that the government should step up action to increase staff numbers and develop required skills.

Stressing that ministers have no comprehensive, long-term plan for how it will fulfil its commitment to implement Future in Mind, which set out a cross-sector vision for how to support children and young people’s mental health, the report highlights the need to better monitor data and progress in individual’s health and well-being.

Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS. 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.

“The NHS must accelerate efforts to ensure it has the right staff with the right skills in the right places. But there is a broader role for government in better supporting children and young people. Effective action on prevention and early intervention can help young people more quickly, as well as relieve pressures on health services. 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.”

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “This report rightly recognises the importance of early intervention and prevention services for children provided by councils, and the significant financial strain these are under. Councils are facing a country-wide children’s care cash crisis and are being forced to cut many of the early intervention services which help children avoid mental health issues in later life.

“Children’s services face a funding gap of £3.1 billion by 2025 while public health services, which have seen cuts of £600 million, also help children get the best start in life. It is vital the government addresses this in the forthcoming Spending Review. The report also highlights the need for the NHS to work with councils. The government has promised £1.7 billion for children’s mental health, and it should make certain all of this is received by children’s mental health services, and not diverted elsewhere. Where it has been spent on other services, government should make up the shortfall.”

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