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NHS trusts raise concerns over wellbeing of children and young people’s mental health services staff

More than 80% of NHS mental health trust leaders are either moderately or extremely concerned about staff wellbeing and current levels of stress and burnout across their children and young people’s services workforce.

Mental Health

Only 3% said that they were not at all concerned about their workforce’s wellbeing following a surge in cases of children and young people with mental health problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which conducted a short survey of chairs and chief executives of mental health and learning disability trusts and combined trusts that provide mental health services for children and young people between the 11-17 May 2021, said: “As the NHS focuses on recovery from the pandemic, we must recognise the extent of its impact on mental health services and ensure they also get the focus and attention they need.

“Despite welcome support and improved funding for some mental health services over recent years, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the impact of rising demand and chronic underinvestment in beds, workforce and capital. We are now into a time of reckoning,” she added.

The survey aimed to capture the views of the sector on the specific issues currently facing CYP mental health services including, the impact of the pandemic on demand for services and those that have been most affected.

When asked how concerned they were about staff wellbeing and current levels of stress and burnout across their children and young people’s services workforce, 3% said not at all concerned, no one said slightly concerned, 10% said somewhat concerned while 3% were unsure. Therefore 84% were either moderately concerned (47%) or extremely concerned (37%).

The survey also found:

  • 100% of mental health trust leaders said that the demand their trust/local systems is experiencing for children and young people’s services is significantly (80%) or moderately (20%) increasing compared to six months ago.
  • 85% of trust leaders said they could not meet demand for CYP eating disorder services.
  • Two thirds of trusts leaders said they are not able to meet demand for community CAMHS (66%) and inpatient CAMHS services (65%).

    84% of trust leaders said the amount of time children and young people are currently having to wait to access treatment for services is significantly (25%) or moderately (59%) increasing compared to waiting times six months ago.
  • 78% of trust leaders said they are extremely (47%) or moderately (31%) concerned about their trust/local system(s) ability to meet the level of anticipated demand within the next 12-18 months for mental health care amongst children and young people. A further 19% are somewhat concerned.
  • 91% of trust leaders agree (41%) or strongly agree (50%) with the statement ‘Presentations to children and young people’s mental health services are more acute and complex than in the past’.
  • 65% of trust leaders disagree (25%) or strongly disagree (34%) with the statement ‘My trust has access to the capital funding it needs.’

Furthermore, trust leaders reported:

  • Increases in demand for children and young people’s eating disorder services.
  • Increases in referrals to community and inpatient CAMHS services.
  • Increase in complexity and acuity of children and young people trying to access services
  • Increases in presentations to A&E
  • Pressure on tier 4 beds for children and young people.

Saffron Cordery added: “Trusts are doing all they can to reduce waiting times, intervene as early as possible and to prevent mental ill health in the first place.

“These findings provide further powerful evidence that in addressing the NHS' backlog of care and the impact of COVID-19, mental health services – including those for children and young people – must be an absolute priority.

“It is vital that mental health trusts are supported to meet the demand they anticipate in the coming months for children and young people.

“They need adequate capital funding to ensure a safe therapeutic environment, workforce investment so we have enough staff with the right skills to treat children and young people, a commitment to expand services in the community to avoid inpatient admissions where possible, and a quick expansion in the bed base where it's needed to bring care closer to home. It is also important too that as the government considers its plans for social care reform, the needs of children and young people are not overlooked,” she concluded.

Children and young people’s mental health services survey

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