Rosemary Bennet reports in The Times 12th May 2015: 1 in 5 mentally ill children turned away by the NHS – A clear case of covert rationing. Why have a cancer drugs fund with poor outcomes when we turn away mentally ill children? Because the media like cancer stories, and they dislike mental health stories, and the politicians are afraid to challenge them with an ideological argument. After all, if there is no rationing, but simply “random walk” of post-coded restrictions and priorities there can be no debate…
More than a fifth of children with serious mental illnesses who are referred for specialist treatment get turned down, according to new figures.
The most common reason given was that their condition was not serious enough to reach the threshold for treatment. Lack of investment in children’s mental health services, despite soaring demand, has forced many NHS services to raise their thresholds for care.
Experts say that this means children must wait until their conditions worsen, and even become suicidal, before they are referred again for treatment. By then their illness is invariably more complicated to treat.
Inquiries made under the freedom of information act to NHS mental health trusts in England found that 39,652 children who were referred by GPs to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services last year were turned away. Experts say it is often difficult to get a referral, with many doctors adopting a “wait and see” approach, hoping the situation will resolve itself.
Even those who do get accepted for treatment can be in for a long wait. In Croydon, South London, children were waiting more than 16 months after being accepted for treatment, a study found. The longest waiting time was 92 weeks.
The data was compiled by the NSPCC which said it was particularly concerned that children who have been abused and neglected are not getting the help they need, even though it is well established that these experiences are a trigger for many mental health problems.
“If children don’t receive the right kind of help and support, the damage can last a lifetime and include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood,” said Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC.
“Not addressing their needs early on is just creating a time bomb of mental health problems. There is a vacuum that needs to be filled and it needs to be a national and local priority.”
The government has pledged to spend £1.25 billion extra on children’s mental health services over the next five years. However it has decided to spend only a small part of this over the next 12 months; £143 million is pledged for eating disorders and post-natal depression.
It has agreed to a study to calculate how much worse children’s mental health has become. The last one was conducted in 2004. It is unlikely the results will be seen before 2018.
Last year four of the top ten issues for ChildLine, the helpline run by the NSPCC, concerned mental health, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Counselling sessions run by the helpline for self-harm have tripled in the past three years to 24,308. Sessions involving suicidal thoughts have doubled to 17,930.