Mental health services unable to meet expectations

Child and adolescent mental health services are being asked to do a job they are not resourced for, delegates at Community Care LIVE children and families heard today.

Paul Caviston, lead clinician consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Brookside Unit, said that 50% of Camh services had fewer than 11 full-time staff, and that the “endless” amount of restructuring coupled with the “blizzard” of administration work was hampering their ability to work with young people.

Caviston criticised the lack of stability or predictability within commissioning practice, adding that there was also a problem with high staff turnover and burnout, especially at management level.

“Providing therapy and treatment for children is taking second place to attending meetings to discuss these problems,” he said.

Caviston explained that, while referrers and parents expected Camh services to be a “fix it” service that could resolve any problem, the teams were dealing with an increase in the number and complexity of referrals, with many more children and young people self-harming, or presenting as suicidal, depressed or violent.

Caviston said there was a real need for community mental health team services, including home treatment services and assertive outreach services, to be extended to adolescents, particularly for problems like eating disorders.

YoungMinds director Barbara Herts called on the government to do more to tackle children and young people’s mental health problems. “Children’s mental health is being sidelined at a policy level and it is a desperately neglected area,” she warned.

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