The number of children in contact with York NHS’s mental health service has jumped by more than 40 per cent in the last two years – with the pandemic putting “a lot of pressure” on the system, a health chief said.
The frustrations of young people and their families who are trying to access children’s and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in the city has been laid out in a Healthwatch York report.
It showed that they are facing delays, lost paperwork and other issues when trying to get support.
But the ‘snapshot’ report said more funding was needed to tackle the key issue of waiting times.
According to NHS data, at the end of May 2020 there were 1,925 children and young people in contact with CAMHS – with the figure rising to 2,765 by the end of June 2022.
A City of York Council review of the referral systems in May found that young people feel that the wait time for CAMHS is too long and that it is causing further negative impact on their mental health.
A woman who contacted Healthwatch, who works with teenagers and young adults, stated that mental health services “practically do not exist in York”.
One teacher said that CAMHS regularly loses paperwork, while another said accessing SEND (special educational needs and disability) support in state schools was difficult.
“When I think about the situations those kids are in, I could just cry…mainstream schools can’t manage complex needs,” the teacher said.
One parent said they had “lost any hope” of their children revealing support for their anxiety, panic attacks and eating disorder.
“The whole experience has been hugely frustrating and upsetting for my child,” they added.
Reduce the anxiety
Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust provides CAMHS, but other support from the council and schools is available.
The report said the system needed better support for teachers, improved administrative processes and better communication from CAMHS at an early stage.
The report added: “Without additional investment in services, bringing down waiting times for assessment and diagnosis will be extremely difficult.
“However, what we can do is try and reduce some of the pain and anxiety in waiting.
“Better communication, and improving parent and teacher confidence in the admin processes could make the journey to diagnosis feel less adversarial.”
Melanie Woodcock, general manager of North Yorkshire, York and Selby CAMHS and learning disabilities services at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Trust said: “Children’s mental health services across the country have been under a lot of pressure because of the pandemic and there are times we cannot see people as soon as we would like.
“However, we are here, along with partners in primary care, local authority and the voluntary sector, to provide a range of Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and support the children and young people who need our help.”
Ms Woodcock said this included a school support service, access to specialist multi-disciplinary CAMHS teams and a 24/7 phoneline support for children and young people who are in mental health crisis.