13 MAY 2011

Improving mental health services for young people

Greg welcomed a breakthrough in mental health services for children and young people, with £750,000 funding agreed to treat 1,000 more young people a year in West Kent.

He commented:

"Compared to other areas of health, mental health services are, all too often, neglected and this was certainly the case in West Kent. I was very saddened by the stories that parents and carers were telling me about the problems they were experiencing trying to get the help they so desperately needed, and I have been actively campaigning to improve the situation.

"I am delighted, therefore, that local health chiefs have finally agreed to address some of the problems within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). These improvements, which they hope will be in place by the Summer, should benefit up to 1,000 children and young people a year, and, of course, many other family members who also often indirectly affected.

"The money will do 3 things:

  • Close the gap between the age of 17 and 18 where currently adolescent care ends but adult care doesn't begin.
  • Provide out-of-hours assessments for under-18s, 365-days a year in A&E, Medical wards and Paediatric wards at Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital and Pembury Hospital.
  • Provide support for young people with ADHD. The service will include an experienced nurse prescriber who will run clinics in GP surgeries and visit families at home.

"There's still a lot more to be done, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. I understand that there are plans to make fundamental changes to CAMHS in the long-term and will be keeping a very close eye on how these plans progress."

Summarising his campaign, Greg said:

"Over the last 2-3 years, I have become increasingly concerned about the number of parents and carers contacting me regarding the delays and difficulties they have experienced trying to access the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for their children.

"I wanted to find out if this experience was widespread so in July 2010, I wrote to all GP practices and headteachers in my constituency to ask their views about the CAMHS service. I also wanted to get feedback from parents so I asked GPs to put posters up in their waiting rooms and schools to put details in their newsletters asking people to send me their feedback on CAMHS.

"The response was considerable, with many desperate stories of how parents had tried to seek help for their children and waiting up to 16 months to receive treatment.

"I also met with professionals working within CAMHS and their views concurred with the experience of GPs, teachers and parents.

"The three key issues that emerged from my research were:

  • The transition from CAMHS to adult services, in particular concerns about continuity of care and the gap in service for 16-18 year olds.
  • Waiting times from first referral to start of treatment and the impact of this on family life and the patient's condition.
  • The complexity and lack of co-ordination between the different CAHMS services which often meant that patients were referred inappropriately.

"In October 2010, I called a meeting with Chief Executive of NHS West Kent, Marion Dinwoodie, to feed back the results of my research. I told her that the "CAMHS service at Tiers 2 & 3 needs to be radically transformed to provide a level of service that some other parts of the country appear to already enjoy" and she agreed to produce an action plan to address these concerns.

"I met with NHS West Kent again in December 2010 and February 2011 to drive progress and I am delighted that they have agreed to make this immediate investment which will, at last, start to address the deficiencies in this desperately important area. I understand that they are also looking to make longer-term changes to CAMHS and I will be keeping a very close eye on these plans progress."

CAMHS provides four levels of service:

Tier 1 – Services provided by GPs, teachers and social workers

Tier 2 – Services provided by mental health professionals for young people with less severe mental health difficulties

Tier 3 – Specialised services for more severe, complex or persistent disorders

Tier 4 – In-patient specialist services

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