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Mental health services for children and young people risk backward slide

9 December 2021

The Health and Social Care Committee calls for urgent action to prevent mental health services slipping backwards as a result of additional demand created by the pandemic and the scale of unmet need prior to it.

MPs found that despite progress in numbers of young people receiving treatment, it was unacceptable that more than half with a diagnosable condition pre-pandemic do not receive the mental health support they need.

The Report notes that half of mental health conditions become established before the age of 14, while data from NHS Digital showed that in 2020 potentially one in six young people had a diagnosable mental health disorder up from one in nine three years earlier, placing a huge additional strain on already stretched children and young people's mental health services.

New Mental Health Support Teams in schools offered a valuable opportunity to identify those beginning to experience problems with their mental health. However MPs note there was no funding to roll them out nationally in the recent Spending Review settlement and that current plans lack ambition.

The Report also found that too many children and young people were placed in inpatient units far from home, without adequate understanding of their rights, and subject to restrictive interventions.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt said:

“Partly because of the pandemic, we are seeing demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS services to breaking point. Whilst we recognise that capacity to provide such services is increasing, we are not convinced it is happening at a fast enough rate.

“There is a growing risk that elective and emergency care pressures will mean mental health services once again become the poor relation.

“Our report uncovers good progress in schools provision but a continuing failure to find community care for too many young people who end up in inappropriate secure provision that makes their illness even worse."

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