Trusts meet children’s service target but coverage still said to be patchy

Child mental health campaigners have warned against complacency after government figures revealed 90 per cent of primary care trusts in England had met a key service target.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis (pictured) announced last week that most 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 figures were published in the April edition of the government’s health and maternity services e-bulletin

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.

Lee Miller, training and consultancy manager at charity YoungMinds, said there had been “definite improvements” in Camhs but warned against complacency.

He said: “It is YoungMinds’ experience that service provision is still patchy across the country and there is still a significant amount of work to be done.”

A YoungMinds report last month said there was a “daunting discrepancy” between the supply of Camhs services and current need.

Despite the overall progress, a breakdown of the three performance areas making up the target showed that Camhs for children with learning difficulties was lagging behind.

About 97 per cent of primary care trusts provided 24-hour Camhs emergency assessment services, 91 per cent provided Camhs for 16 to 17-year-olds while 88 per cent provided Camhs for children with learning difficulties, according to the figures from 31 December 2006.

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

Focus on under-16s
Lewis also made a commitment to end the use of adult psychiatric wards for under-16s within two years. But YoungMinds senior policy officer Kathryn Pugh said relatively few under-16s were placed in psychiatric wards and two years seemed a long timescale to meet the target.

And she questioned whether Lewis’ focus on under-16s meant he thought it was acceptable for 16- and 17-year-olds to be placed in adult wards.

Further information
Mental Health

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  Simeon Brody



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