Region’s mental health trust has highest number of refused referrals for children nationally
- Credit: Time to change/Newscast Online
The region's mental health trust has topped the list for the number of referrals to treat children and young people it turns away.
A new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) revealed last week more than a quarter of children referred to specialist mental-health services in 2016-17 nationally were not accepted for treatment.
But at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), this more than doubled with 64.1pc of referrals being turned away - the highest proportion in the country. At the same time, the median waiting time for treatment at the trust was 14 days, in the 10 lowest waiting times nationally.
Andy Goff, NSFT locality manager for children, families and young people's services, said: 'Currently, only 30pc of local CAMHS need is commissioned by the clinical comissioning groups (CCGs). Within that 30pc, NSFT is only funded by local CCGs to provide support to those with the more severe mental health issues within its CAMHS services.'
By 2021 the government has set a target to reach 35pc of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition. But fears have been raised those not in crisis might slip through the cracks. However, Norfolk and Waveney CCGs have pointed out there are other services - such as Point 1, which reportedly dealt with 4,000 referrals in 2016/17. Point 1 helps with issues such as anxiety, depression, and self-harm, amongst others.
Labour Norfolk County councillor Emma Corlett, who sits on the council's health overview and scrutiny committee and is a former mental health nurse, said the government target was 'scandalous'.
She said: 'I can't imagine setting a target to only treat 35pc of children with a brain tumour or leukaemia, so why does society accept this? So much for the oft trotted out parity of esteem. The money that is meant to be for children and young people's mental health in Norfolk is not ring-fenced by government, which means that £1.2m meant for children and young people's mental health services locally has not materialised.
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'Commissioners are clearly under-commissioning services and money meant for their services is being diverted elsewhere to plug gaps as the overall health system struggles with under funding and rising demand. We are damaging these young people's life chances, and storing up problems for the future.'
A spokesman from Norfolk and Waveney CCGs said: 'We all recognise there are great pressures on children and young people's mental health services and we are looking at how to increase capacity and provision within the budgets we have.
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'NSFT is correct in saying its services are only for more severe mental health issues. Many who need support or intervention are helped in the community because the issues they are dealing with do not require a medical or psychiatric response.'
He added: 'CAMHS services are commissioned in line with national guidance and in addition to existing services, the CCGs in Norfolk and Waveney have increased funding for children and adolescents' mental health services by £1.9m a year and this has helped to significantly expand the CAMHS eating disorders service amongst many other projects. As a direct result, more children and young people are being seen by the service.'
'Refused referral does not mean no support'
Mr Goff added: 'A 'refused referral' does not mean that the young person has been refused appropriate, locally available support. The young person may have been referred to a more appropriate service to better meet their needs.
'When a referral is made to us, we assess each one against the criteria the local commissioners have set. These criteria vary in different parts of the country, and even in different parts of our region.
'In most cases, if a young person does not have needs which we support in CAMHS, we will then directly refer them on, including to our own Wellbeing services.
'The report also doesn't indicate where our service might have to 'hold' or 'refuse a referral' in order to gain more details about the young person's needs to ensure we can offer support safely.
'And it doesn't reflect where a young person is referred to us, but then decides they do not want to engage with our services.'