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Psychologists say funding for children and young people’s mental health is ‘small step in right direction’

A £40 million injection of funding into children and young people’s mental health is a “small step in the right direction,” psychologists have warned.

NHS England announced that an additional £40 million has been allocated to address the COVID impact on children and young people’s mental health and enhance services across the country.

This funding is in addition to £79 million previously announced by the government to support children and young people’s mental health in the community, including via increased access to crisis and eating disorder services and new mental health support teams being rolled out. By April 2023, there will be around 400 teams covering 35% of the country.

The new £40 million investment will be spent ensuring the right type of beds are in the right places, or that alternatives to admission are in place, supporting parts of the country that have more challenges in their range of bed capacity.

Claire Murdoch, national mental health director, said: “This pandemic has hit our young people hard and while services have remained open throughout, we have seen an increase in the numbers of children and young people seeking help from the NHS for their mental health.”

“This additional funding is in recognition of the rising demand and our continued commitment to provide the best care as early as possible and to do as much to prevent children and young people needing hospital treatment as we do to ensure that when they are in hospital they receive the right treatment before being supported back at home.”

The British Psychological Society welcomed the funding but warned that it is a small step in the context of a system under great strain.

Diane Ashby, deputy chief executive of the BPS, said: “This funding, which will be delivered over the next three years, is a welcome step however there is still a long way to go to ensure the services and resources, including the workforce, are there to ensure all children and young people can access the help they need. Due to consistent cuts over the last ten years early intervention services have been eroded and the pandemic has worsened a system that was already under great strain."

“With the introduction of new roles, such as the associate practitioner psychologists, there needs to be more detail provided about how these roles will work in practice and how they fit within the already complex structures of the NHS. There also needs to be appropriate provision of placements and supervision. It is not simply enough to create new roles without these considerations being made."

“There also needs to be consideration given to where people will be recruited from for these roles, for example from graduates or non-graduates, or the retraining of existing staff, and how the ongoing issues across the NHS including retention, burnout and career progression will be addressed,” she added.

NHS England said £30 million revenue and £10 million capital will be used across a number of schemes including supporting services to prevent the need for admission and to train staff working with children with mental health issues on children’s wards to ensure they have the skills to manage mental health conditions even if they are not specialist mental health staff.

Feeding training will be rolled out to support staff in providing care for patients with eating disorders so that, where appropriate, this care can be given to children and young people in a standard hospital setting. The investment will also be used to develop day services and alternatives to admissions that will include support for patients with eating disorders.

This investment recognises the complexity of mental health in children and young people who may require hospital treatment for another matter while also presenting with a mental health condition.

Recognising that in many cases the best place for children and young people to receive care is at home, money will also be spent on establishing an intensive community support role to prevent children being admitted to hospitals and facilitating earlier discharge.

As a result, 96 associate practitioner psychologists will be trained to practice under close supervision with those who have complex and severe mental health conditions, to provide care both in hospital and within the home.

This funding is in addition to the significant funding already committed to mental health services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan which will see a further 345,000 children and young people access mental health services by 2024.

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