A Cambridgeshire mental health trust has disputed claims from the NSPCC that it is ‘turning away’ children.
New figures released today by the NSPCC show that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) received 4,372 referrals for under 18s in 2016/17, of which 1,370 were not accepted.
Moreover, the average waiting time to be assessed after being referred was 11 weeks.
However, CPFT says the phrase used by the NSPCC in a press release that mental health trusts were turning away children was not accurate in its case,
Dr Venkat Reddy, clinical director for children, young people and families at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The figures do not tell the full story about the work of our children and young people’s mental health teams or the work that is going on across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
“CPFT provides specialist mental health services for children and young people who needs are classified as “moderate to severe”. It is incorrect to suggest CPFT turns away or denies help to children whose needs are “mild to moderate”.
“Instead, following their triage or assessment, we work very hard to ensure those children and their families are helped to access to other organisations in the local area – commissioned by the NHS – to provide them with the right services to meet their needs.
“At CPFT we continue to work with our commissioners, partner organisations, young people and families, to reduce waiting times.
“We have received some additional investment and have made good progress but the demand for emotional health and mental health services for children and young people continues to increase.
“More investment is needed to ensure we can continue to drive down waiting lists, recruit further experience staff, and ensure trusts like ours can make sure that every young person, and their family or carers, gets the support they require at the earliest possible opportunity.
“Despite the pressures faced by our frontline staff every day they are dedicated to providing the very best care for every child and family needing our support, and to developing innovative approaches to provide the best support they can within the resources available to us.”
At CPFT, in 2015/16 there were 4,052 referrals, of which 1,439 were not accepted.
Waiting times have come down from 2015/16, when the average wait was 20.2 weeks (101 working days).
The NSPCC said it did not receive figures from the trust on whether any young people were turned away because they were too old to be admitted, or if they were not accepted then referred elsewhere.
According to the NSPCC, more than 100,000 children referred to local specialist NHS mental health services in England were rejected for treatment in the last two years, with waiting times averaging eight weeks.
But the charity fears that the number of young people being dismissed from mental health services could be significantly higher, as one in five of the trusts which responded to a Freedom of Information request failed to disclose the number of rejected referrals.
The charity is now calling on the Government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention, to ensure that young people’s mental health does not have to reach crisis point before they are able to get help.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is desperately sad to see so many young people facing distress around mental health issues being forced to wait months for assessment by CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), many of whom are then rejected for treatment altogether. This risks leaving them in limbo while their condition potentially reaches crisis point.
“We recognise the hard work of mental health professionals in trying to help young people get their lives back on track.
“However, too many children who need help are struggling to access support and treatment which can help them to recover.
“The Government’s upcoming Green Paper on mental health must urgently evaluate the early support systems available to young people to ensure that no child is left to suffer in silence.”