Thousands of children in need of mental health support have been turned away by the NHS, a Brighton MP told the House of Commons.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “Last year, in my NHS trust 37 per cent of children referred to mental health services were turned away.
“That was up from 28 per cent the year before. That is 2,649 children not getting treatment despite referrals from professionals.
“That will be exacerbated, of course, by the acute children’s mental health unit at Ticehurst being shut and no new hospital provision commissioned.
“It is not just Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust that is failing, it is services across the country.
“In 2019, 140,000 children were turned away from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and some experience exceptionally long waits.”
He asked Conservative Health Minister Nadine Dorries: “Is the minister comfortable with these huge numbers of children being turned away from treatment?
“Does she think that these waiting times are acceptable?
“What message does she have for those children and families who do not receive the treatment that they desperately need?”
Ms Dorries, the Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health and a former nurse, said: “The short answer to that question is no – and that is why we have committed an additional £500 million to address some of the issues that the honourable gentleman highlights.
“However, I must reiterate that the majority of our targets, where they have been set, are being met.
“Sadly, in eating disorders – I hold my hands up – we are not meeting the targets that we want to, but as he may be aware, we are trialling four-week waiting targets for children and young people. The results of that review and pilot will be available soon.
“We continue to look at ways in which we can increase access to services for children and young people.
“Children and young people have told me themselves, via organisations such as Barnardo’s, that they want their mental health services delivered in a different way.
“They do not want to go and sit in a village hall or a hospital – or wherever they may receive their services from community practitioners.
“They want some of their services delivered via their phones, laptops or computers.
“Obviously, one-to-one services have to be available where they are needed but children and young people are demanding a change and we are going through that change now.”
Mr Russell-Moyle’s questions were a follow up to his question on the Commons order paper on Tuesday (8 June).
He asked the Conservative Health Secretary Matt Hancock “what recent assessment his department has made of changes in waiting times for mental health treatment”.
Today, @lloyd_rm spoke about how 2,600 children were turned away from mental health services in his area. The Government’s blaise approach needs urgent attention to ensure children aren’t missing out. pic.twitter.com/rbcTkY8aJf
— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan 💙 (@DrRosena) June 8, 2021
Ms Dorries said: “We are transforming mental health services through the NHS long-term plan, investing an additional £2.3 billion a year by 2023-24.
“Where national waiting time targets exits, the majority are being met. Targets for eating disorder services are sadly not being met, but additional resources have been allocated to increase capacity and address waiting times.
“We are working on the consultation responses for the Mental Health Act White Paper and we will bring legislation forward when parliamentary time allows.”
Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Mental Health, said: “My honourable friend the member for Brighton Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) raises a very important point and, frankly, I am shocked that the minister seems so relaxed about it.”
Dr Allin-Khan said: “Across the country, there are numerous children who have waited more than 400 days for help with autism, 280 days for post-traumatic stress disorder, 217 days for suicidal ideation, 195 days for treatment after an overdose – I could go on and on.
“Children should not have to wait so long for treatment. That will have a scarring impact on their development.
“These waiting times simply are not acceptable, so will the minister apologise to these children, and can she explain where it went so wrong?”
Ms Dorries said: “I do not believe that meeting almost all our targets for NHS waiting times for mental health services, with £2.3 billion a year of investment into our NHS and no NHS mental health service closing during the entire pandemic, has been a failure.
“Of course I am sorry for those children and young people who cannot get access to services as quickly as they want.
“That is exactly why we committed an additional £500 million and established a mental health recovery plan: so that we can put community services in place to reach those who have been impacted most by the pandemic over the past 15 months.
“We have a long-term plan in place, with the investment that the NHS tells us that that long-term plan needs to provide the very services that we want to provide.
“The mental health of children and young people is this government’s priority. We will continue to invest, and are proving to continue to invest, to make sure that those children and young people access the services they need.”
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “Sussex Partnership provides specialist mental health services and last year treated more than 8,000 children and young people in our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
“No child or young person who needs specialist treatment is ‘turned away’.
“When referrals do not lead to treatment by our services, it is most likely that the needs of the young person are best met through a range of more appropriate mental health and wellbeing services provided by partner organisations.
“We have additional investment and are prioritising people according to their needs to manage the increased demand due to the pandemic.”
To read the full exchanges in the Commons, as recorded in Hansard, the parliamentary record of debates, click here.