Greg Clark’s demand for ‘urgent’ action on helping children with mental health issues

Pam Mills

This Friday [September 21], an influential health committee is meeting at Kent County Council to discuss the performance of the Children & Young People’s Mental Health Service. Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has written to the committee to highlight what he believes are areas of concern requiring ‘urgent attention.’

In his regular column for the Times [Page 26] the MP said: “I was told that 343 young people in the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells area have been waiting over 18 weeks for treatment but no information was disclosed on how that total breaks down i.e. how many people are waiting six months, or one year or more.

“Without this information, we do not have a clear picture. It is vitally important that young people start receiving treatment as soon as possible as many mental health conditions can worsen over time without it.”

The MP added: “If we have a physical ailment, we expect to be seen promptly and receive whatever care is needed. This should be exactly the same for a mental health condition.”

Last year, a new five-year contract was awarded to North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) to provide mental health services to Kent’s children and young people.

Mental health services in general have a ‘scandalous history’ where children and teenagers have sometimes waited a year and a half to get an initial appointment.

It was six years ago when Greg Clark first raised alarm bells about young people having to wait an ‘unacceptably long time’ to get the treatment they needed for mental health difficulties and the distressing impact this was having on families.

Since then, two different NHS Trusts have been appointed to run the service, including NELFT, and there are still continuing problems.
Information being provided on waiting times is apparently so poor that it is impossible to assess whether the service is being run effectively or not.
Ian Soars, Chief Executive of the children’s support charity Fegans said: “Like Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services [CAMHS], Fegans has faced a huge escalation in both numbers and level of complexity of need. We work hard to keep our waiting lists below six weeks as we know that any delays in the commencement of therapy can have significant impacts for children.

“To that end we invested more than £300,000 of our own money last year ensuring no child had to wait too long; a clearly unsustainable position.

“Fegans believes these problems can only be solved in collaboration with each other, working with CAMHS, NHS Commissioners, schools and charities. We welcome Greg’s support in helping to make this happen.”

Mr Clark added: “I will not be satisfied until I am absolutely convinced that our children are receiving a first-rate service. Anything less is unacceptable.”

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