NHS Long Term Plan highlights commitment to children’s mental health

The NHS has published its long-term plan, pledging to prioritise children and young people’s mental health services.

The NHS Long-Term Plan states that over the next five years, the NHS will continue to invest in expanding access to community-based mental health services to meet the needs of more children and young people.

In a new commitment, the Long-Term Plan states that funding for children and young people’s mental health services will grow faster than both overall NHS funding and total mental health spending.

The promise comes after the latest statistics show that one in every nine children aged five to 15-years-old has a diagnosable mental health problem and half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14.

“By 2023/24, at least an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0-25 will be able to access support via NHS funded mental health services and school or college-based Mental Health Support Teams,” said the plan.

Mental health support for children and young people will be embedded in schools and colleges as outlined in the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper. Over the next five years, the NHS will fund the new Mental Health Support Teams working in schools and colleges, which will be rolled out to between one-fifth and a quarter of the country by the end of 2023.

The teams will work with a designated mental health lead in schools, providing the link between schools and the NHS.

Further, it adds that all children requiring specialist mental health support should be able to access it over the next decade. “Over the coming decade the goal is to ensure that 100% of children and young people who need specialist care can access it.”

Over the next five years, the NHS will also boost investment in children and young people’s eating disorder services. In addition, children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to access the support they need by expanding timely, age-appropriate crisis services which will improve the experience of children and young people and reduce pressures on accident and emergency departments, paediatric wards and ambulance services.

The current structure of mental health services often creates gaps for young people undergoing the transition from children and young people’s mental health services to appropriate support including adult mental health services. As a result, a new approach to young adult mental health services will be designed for people aged 18-25 which will support the transition to adulthood. The current service models will be extended to create a comprehensive offer for 0-25 year olds that reaches across mental health services for children, young people and adults. The new model will deliver an integrated approach across health, social care, education and the voluntary sector.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “We welcome the plan’s commitment to extend access to mental health support to more children, young people and young adults up to age 25. For too many young people, mental health support is offered too late, with too many restrictions, and then they are forced to start again when they reach 18. We hope the NHS will radically redesign its mental health offer to young people so that it reaches out sooner, makes help-seeking much easier and friendlier, and provides consistent help into adult life.”

Children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield said that while she welcomed the commitment to make child and adolescent mental health services a priority and the promise of extra resources, the government should be more ambitious.

“Every year thousands of children will still fail to receive the help they need. The government must be more ambitious and its aim should be for a CAMHS system that helps every child suffering from a mental illness, not just some. That will require bolder policies like an NHS-funded counsellor in every school to identify and tackle problems early, and closer parity between what is spent on adult and child mental health services,” she added.

NHS Long Term Plan

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