£1.5m study to help young people in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire with emotional disorders

Dr Anupam Bhardwaj
Dr Anupam Bhardwaj
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Children and adolescents in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are set to benefit from a new £1.5 million research study to improve assessments and care for emotional disorders.

Mental health disorders affect around one in eight children and young people, most commonly emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders.

The study will test an assessment tool used by mental health clinicians to diagnose these issues as early as possible to help children and teenagers in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Anupam Bhardwaj is leading the study for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), working with national lead Professor Kapil Sayal from the Institute of Mental Health.

Dr Bhardwaj said: “Children and young people with emotional difficulties often experience self-harm, poor physical health, family conflict and problems with schooling, friendships and taking part in wider activities.

“To stop these issues having a long-lasting impact into adulthood it’s vital to give children and their families the correct diagnosis, so that appropriate care and interventions can be offered.

“I will be working closely with the mental health team at CPFT’s Windsor Research Unit and the referrals team for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to review an assessment tool used alongside routine clinical care, with health professionals.”

The STADIA study (STAndardised DIagnostic Assessment for children and adolescents with emotional difficulties) is funded by the National Institute for Health Research. It aims to evaluate whether the DAWBA standard assessment tool is clinically effective and good value in diagnosing emotional disorders in children and adolescents (aged five to 17 years), referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) with emotional difficulties.

Local CAMHS provide assessment and treatment for children and young people up to the age of 17 who are experiencing emotional and behavioural problems, and eating or neurodevelopmental disorders, with support for their families.

Currently, the NHS has limited information on whether standard assessment approaches help these children and their parents, in addition to routine clinical care.

By evaluating different approaches to assessment within CAMHS, and sharing the findings, this research will help improve care and inform clinical guidelines. Study results will help the NHS ensure that diagnosis of emotional disorders is effective and value for money, and that clinicians are supported to make decisions about care and treatment.

The study will work closely with clinicians and patients across CPFT’s CAMHS, as well as with four other NHS trusts across England, throughout the four year study.

Team members include a parent co-applicant and the study will have Parent and Young Person Advisory Group Panels. Other research collaborators include the University of Nottingham’s Clinical Trials Unit which will coordinate the study, and the NIHR MindTech MedTech Co-operative.