Children and young people are facing doubly long wait times following GP referral to specialist mental health services, the CQC warned - facing waits to be assessed and then again to receive treatment.
The report draws on interviews, existing reports and research – in addition to findings on over 100 specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) from CQC inspections – to identify strengths and weaknesses in the current system.
One patient reported they had to wait 18 months to get the help they needed.
Although 68% of specialist services were rated good or outstanding, two fifths (41%) were rated requires improvement or inadequate for the CQC’s ‘responsive’ key question.
It also cited evidence from Public Health England (PHE) that showed just 25% of children and young people who need treatment for their mental health are able to access it.
Mental health care
The report is the first phase of a major thematic review requested by the prime minister in January, with a second phase to come, which will entail field work to identify how services can improve.
It warned that those who work with children and young people, including GP practices, ‘do not always have the skills or capacity’ to identify mental health problems in this age group, and they may need more training to meet the needs of younger people.
Unsustainable GP workloads and difficulties recruiting and retaining staff are also affecting how GPs can respond to young people with mental health problems, it said.
Dr Andrew Molodynski, BMA mental health lead, said: ‘The commissioning of this review was an important step in making children and young people’s mental health a priority for the government.
‘Although at an early stage, this review already reflects many of the BMA’s concerns regarding mental health services for children and young people, in particular, around difficulty accessing services, lack of joined-up services and variation in the quality of care.
‘The report shows that when patients can access treatment, they usually get good quality care from caring and compassionate staff, which is very positive. Gaining access to necessary specialist care remains a serious concern in places; as this review highlights, one patient waited 18 months. It is a need the government must address as a priority.’
CQC lead for mental health, deputy chief inspector Dr Paul Lelliott, said: ‘This review has given CQC an important opportunity to not only consider the quality of care as found in our inspections, but also take a step back and look at the system as a whole.
‘There are many people out there working to make sure that children and young people who experience mental health issues are offered caring support. Their dedication is to be celebrated.
‘However, we must also address those times when a child or young person feels let down or not listened to and make sure the same level of support is available to each and every one of them.’