PAC: NHS mental health provision must improve

15 Jan 19

The government must step in as the NHS is currently failing young people with mental health problems, a group of MPs has said.

Just three in ten children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition were able to access the treatment they needed last financial year, according to a report from the Public Accounts Committee.

It also criticised “unacceptably long” waiting times for treatment for young people with mental health issues

Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, 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.”

The committee called for ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health and said the NHS should set out exactly how this goal could be measured.

A lack of trained mental health professionals was cited as one of the major reasons behind the failings, in the report released on Friday last week.

Health Education England has claimed the removal of the nursing bursary and high rents, especially in the southeast of the country, was the reason for staff shortages, the PAC noted.

Other failings include a lack of co-operation between different departments, a focus on treatment at the expense of preventative measures and a lack of data that would allow managers to make better decisions about which services were working for young people.

The number of young people aged five to 15 diagnosed with a mental health condition is increasing, up from 10.1% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2017, the PAC noted.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The PAC report presents a damning picture of the current state of mental health provision for children and young people across the country. Schools are witnessing the devastating impact this has on their pupils on an ever-increasing basis.”

The government must step in to increase staff numbers and develop the skills required to improve provision for young people with mental health issues, the PAC concluded.

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