The Lightning Review: Access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, published in May 2016, was “designed to cast light on potential issues that exist in the mental health services vulnerable young people need” (p1). The intention was to raise issues and help commissioners and policymakers identify how services need to change to meet the mental health needs of children and young people.
The main findings are as follows:
- Access to CAMHS is a post code lottery: “access, the service you receive and how long you are likely to wait for it depends very much on where you live.” (p7)
- Children and young people are being turned away when they need help: “79% of CAMHS stated that they imposed restrictions and thresholds on children and young people accessing their services – meaning that unless their cases were sufficiently severe they were not able to access services.” (p2)
- Children and young people who miss appointments can face restrictions: “It is well known that many young people with mental health problems have difficulty attending appointments. However, 35% of all CAMHS stated that children and young people who missed appointments would face restrictions in accessing their services” (p2)
- Many children and young people are put on long waiting lists, which can worsen their mental health further: “The length of time spent on a waiting list can have a significant impact on a child or young person’s mental health and associated needs and can lead to failing to engage with the service, and/or, their condition worsening.” (p7)
Some suggestions from recent CAMHS users were also reported:
- “Shorter waiting times.
- For someone to be available to talk to between the referral to CAMHS and the first appointment, ‘they could be like a bridge and help you at the first CAMHS meeting’.
- Not relying on letters to get you to the first appointment, especially when your family is not reliable. Contacts and reminders should be sent by phone and text.
- Reducing the stigma around being in care or having a mental health need.
- Providing a drop-in service for young people where they could chat about things that worried them and get to know the people running the service.” (p23)
Read the full report here