PCTs hit children’s mental health target but learning disabilities services suffer

Most primary care trusts in England have now met a key child mental health target, but services for children with learning disabilities are still lagging behind, according to Department of Health figures published today.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said nine out of 10 PCTs had met the public service agreement target to provide comprehensive child and adolescent mental health services by December 2006, and that the remaining PCTs had “put plans in place” to meet it.

The announcement followed doubts over whether the NHS could meet the target.

In a leaked letter to strategic health authorities last July, Department of Health official Richard Gleave predicted that the NHS was not “on track” to meet the target by December 2006.

The number of children being treated by Camhs rose by 8 per cent from 2004 to 2005 while the number of specialist Cahms staff increased by 11 per cent, the DH figures showed.

Despite the overall progress, a breakdown of the three performance areas making up the target showed that Cahms for children with learning disabilities were still lagging behind.

About 96 per cent of primary care trusts provided 24-hour Cahms emergency assessment services, 89 per cent provided Camhs for 16-17-year-olds while just 87 per cent provided Camhs for children with learning disabilities, according to the figures from 31 December 2006.

Just over half of new Cahms cases also waited four weeks or less for treatment.

Lewis said: “This improvement in Camhs is the result of very hard work by dedicated staff who, working from a low base, have achieved a great deal.”

He added that he wanted the use of adult psychiatric wards for under-16s to end within two years.

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