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Child mental health services ‘not fit for purpose’, says top psychiatrist

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) services across England are so overstretched that they are not fit for purpose, a leading psychiatrist has warned.

This comes as children and adolescents are being turned away from CAMHS services until they are so ill they attempt suicide, reports the BBC.

Meanwhile, A&Es are forced to pick up the slack from under-delivering mental health support services.

Speaking to BBC's Panorama for a programme due to air this evening, Dr Jon Goldin, vice chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Faculty, said: 'I have colleagues working all over the country who are extremely dedicated, extremely committed doing excellent work. The trouble is the services are very stretched, we’re not meeting the need so in that sense it’s not fit for purpose.'

The Panorama investigation uncovered via FOI that some CAMHS services in England do not offer 24-hour specialist care to treat children outside of hospital, meaning that rising numbers are ending up in A&E. It found 1.5m children live in areas without round-the-clock support

The programme further heard from children and families who were only able access help once they attempted suicide.

The BBC revealed a leaked letter telling staff at Waltham Forest CAMHS in January that they could no longer treat everybody who needed help, apart from the most severe cases, including psychosis and serious self harm.

Nick Waggett, chief executive of the Association of Child Psychotherapists said: 'We do hear stories of children and young people having to have attempted suicide on a number of occasions actually before they are seen within the service. The problem is that then they’re very ill and it actually becomes increasingly difficult to offer them an effective treatment.'

The Government announced in July that it would trial a new four-week waiting time standard for children and young people referred for mental health treatment by GPs and other professionals, to try and boost the number of mentally unwell children treated by CAMHS from one in four to one in three.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Overstretched service? Need a solution? Try our new 4 week guideline, guaranteeing an under qualified practitioner will telephone and discharge your patient same day, therefore meeting the above target! (Warning- actual treatment of disorder not guaranteed)

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  • It's the same situation for the adult services

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  • "It's the same situation for the adult services"

    Correction: "...for the NHS"

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  • doctordog.

    We’ve known this for a long time.

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  • What happened to the phrase "parity of importance between mental and physical illness" bandied around by politicians several years ago-never happened-
    and in the meantime social media, academic pressures and austerity have conspired to create a perfect storm for our children and adolescents.

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