A report from independent think tank CentreForum has revealed that 23% of children and young people referred to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for specialist mental health support are turned away.
While CAMHS has an admittedly broad remit – the various agencies involved work with children and young people experiencing difficulties with their health and well-being, which covers issues including eating disorders, depression, substance abuse and psychosis – it is widely accepted that in all cases early intervention is preferable. Despite this, patients have reported long waiting times to see a specialist and, in some cases, an assertion that their conditions weren’t considered to be acute enough to warrant immediate help.
Bearing in mind that around 10% of young people aged between 5 and 16 are estimated to suffer from some sort of mental health issue, this has to be viewed as a significant problem.
This particular issue, however, is not a problem in isolation. The core areas of social care – physical healthcare, social services and mental healthcare – can be seen as a three-legged stool. It is widely acknowledged that physical healthcare costs can be driven up as a direct result of poor mental health, and the independent Mental Health Taskforce estimates that increase could be as high as 50%.
From this we can reasonably conclude that a lack of investment in social services and mental health now will present a future problem for the NHS, in the form of patients with physical health issues.
Why is CAMHS Struggling to Cope?
Why are so many people being let down by CAMHS? Is there a skills gap in mental health practitioners and social workers, meaning sufficient staff simply aren’t available? Or are social care managers, who are for whatever reason unable to recruit the permanent staff they need, reluctant to spend money on locums who may be perceived as a more expensive option?
With a quarter of all newly qualified social workers reportedly struggling to find work, there may arguably be a dearth of experienced staff available, but there is certainly no shortage of qualified staff. Locum recruitment would seem to be the smart solution to the current problem.
One thing seems certain: so long as social services and mental healthcare are underfunded, the NHS will also struggle, as it is increasingly left to pick up the pieces further down the line.
Are you a CAMHS worker or service manager with first-hand experience of the current skills shortage? What impact is it having on the support you’re able to provide? Please leave a comment below or get in touch to discuss your resourcing requirements.