This site is intended for health professionals only

Child mental health services ‘overwhelmed’

By Nigel Praities

GPs say the lack of access to psychological therapies for children with mental health problems is worsening – with some waiting for a year to see a specialist.

The claim – made during a RCGP roundtable debate last week – comes as access for adults to psychological therapies looks set to increase, with all three major political parties including pledges in their election manifestos.

But as the financial situation of some PCTs worsens, GPs say paediatric psychiatric services are overwhelmed, with long waits before children are seen.

Dr David Lawrence, a GP in Dartford, Kent, said there was only a ‘disparate’ mental health service for children, with one patient at his practice told they would wait for a year for their child to be seen by a psychologist.

‘This was a child in year six at school who already has emotional problems and they will have to wait a year to see somebody and they will be in secondary school. We can predict now what will happen – school exclusion. That is particularly depressing.

‘Talking to child psychologists – they are tearing their hair out, but they are overwhelmed,’ he said.

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field said a year wait to see a specialist was ‘disgraceful’.

Dr Andrew Elder, a former GP and member of the primary care section of the Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy said he was ‘very concerned’ about NHS mental health services for the young.

‘There is a huge evidence base for the long term benefits of therapeutic work – sometimes very simple interventions – in mothers and very small children.

‘At the moment we have a vestigial service, there are some very important pockets but it is nothing like a national service,’ he said.

Child mental health services ‘overwhelmed’ Watch the full debate