Councillors in Kent have called on the health secretary to help address long waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services in the county.
At a meeting on Friday, Kent County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed to ask Jeremy Hunt to assess the adequacy of the service provided by Sussex Partnership NHS Trust and recommend an “outstanding” NHS trust that could help it to improve.
The move comes after the trust failed to hit its waiting time targets and reported a rise in waiting times during the third quarter of 2013.
A spokesman for the trust, which took over the service in September 2012, said it had inherited a service dogged by long waiting times and without any provision for urgent referrals.
“We are very sorry for any families who are waiting too long for assessment and treatment,” said the spokesman.
“We agree it is important for young people with mental health problems get the treatment they need at the earliest possible opportunity. We’re working very hard to do this.
“Any young person who needs urgent treatment now receives it straight away. We’ve reduced the average length of waiting time for assessment from 12 weeks to 8 weeks.
“We’ve also reduced the number of people waiting for a first appointment from 1,300 to 540. But we need to do better and we’re working hard to do that.”
“At the same time as we have been doing this, referrals have increased by about a third. This reflects the pressure on services nationally. We now have an average of about 800 young people a month being referred into our service.”
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, who spoke in favour of asking the Department of Health to intervene at the committee meeting, welcomed the decision to write to the health secretary.
“It is a bitter disappointment to me and many young people and their families that the local mental health service is not working as was promised,” said Clark.
“This situation cannot continue. On average 10 children in every Kent secondary school are waiting for treatment having been assessed as needing it.”
“I am grateful that the Kent County Council committee backed unanimously my call for urgent action to sort out this situation.”