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Four tips on how to deal with CAMHS referrals

Dr Janice Allister gives her four top tips on how best to handle child- and adolescent mental health referrals.

1. Take enough time. Speak with both the child and parent or guardian and try to gain an understanding of the complexity of the case and its context, and get a clear picture of any safeguarding issues.

2. Discuss the pros and cons. Always discuss fully what a CAMHS referral might mean with the child and parent, explaining the consequences, what you will be putting in the referral letter and what they can expect to happen. Be prepared to see the child over several consultations before referral to CAMHS.

3. Be clear if you feel the child is at risk. Put as much detail into the referral letter as possible, making very clear the level of risk and complexity, and including as much relevant background information as possible, such as a parent with a long-term disability or condition, or any family bereavement. This can make the difference between a referral being taken up or not.

4. Look at different options. Be willing to help the child and their parent/carer navigate the referral system and prepare them for long waiting times or difficulty accessing services. Look at what you can do to address underlying problems while waiting for referral and bear in mind that sometimes the parent or guardian may be able to find solutions with the right support.

Dr Janice Allister is a GP in Peterborough and chair of the Primary Care Child Safeguarding Forum

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